UK trials subscription model to encourage antibiotics development

By Ben Hargreaves contact

- Last updated on GMT

(Image: Getty/MJ_Prototype)
(Image: Getty/MJ_Prototype)

Related tags: Antibiotics, Uk, NICE

Highlighting the threat of AMR, the UK government has worked with the pharma industry to develop a new antibiotics payment model based on ‘usefulness’ to the NHS.

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has been labelled a ‘growing threat’​ by the European Medicines Agency, with the agency calling for a ‘sustained effort’ to combat the prevalence of AMR that can cause common diseases to become untreatable.

With this in mind, the UK government announced its plans to encourage the development of new antibiotics through the trialling of a ‘subscription’-based payments system.

The payment model will see the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), NHS England and NHS Improvement lead the initiative to pay pharma companies for providing antibiotics upfront for access “based on their usefulness to the NHS.”

This method of payment looks to circumvent the issue related to the lack of profitability of such treatments, as antibiotics are often paid for in bulk and held for reserve until needed thereby lowering their cost.

In a statement​, the Department of Health and Social Care stated that it hopes that this will make it more attractive to invest the estimated £1bn ($1.24bn) required to develop an antibiotic and mitigate companies’ wariness of entering the space due to the ‘low return on investment’.

When in-PharmaTechnologist spoke to Manos Perros, CEO of antibiotic developer Entasis, he predicted that the market for antibiotics will change into a “low volume, high margin”​ one and that, as a result, big pharma will return to invest in the space.

Previously, larger companies, such as Novartis​ and AstraZeneca​, have ceased development due to the lack of return on investment.

UK Health and Social Care Secretary, Matt Hancock, said, “Our NHS is in a unique position to take a global lead in testing new payment models. We will take the lead but this is a global problem and we cannot succeed alone.”

Health Minister, Nicola Blackwood, also suggested that other countries will need to follow such an example to address a potential ‘global market failure’ for such treatments. As such, the project will share its findings with the ‘rest of the world’, in order for other health care systems to test similar models.

At present, NICE and NHS England and NHS Improvement are requesting companies to identify and submit products that could be considered for the initial phase of the test.

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