‘Superbugs will kill more than cancer and diabetes by 2050’ say MPs after experts warn we’re beoming resistant to antibiotics
- Experts have warned that routine hospital operations could become too dangerous
- They fear the antibiotics crisis is getting worse, with growing concerns the drugs are losing their effect
- It is estimated that drug-resistant strains of bacteria are responsible for 5,000 deaths a year in the UK
Superbugs will kill more people than cancer and diabetes combined by 2050 unless something is done to tackle antibiotic resistance, MPs have warned.
Despite drives to reduce prescription rates, British doctors are still doling out twice as many antibiotics as some of their European counterparts, a report has found.
Experts have warned that routine hospital operations could become too dangerous if common medications become ineffective.
They fear the antibiotics crisis is getting worse, with growing concerns the drugs are losing their effect and can no longer treat many infections.
It is estimated that drug-resistant strains of bacteria are responsible for 5,000 deaths a year in the UK and 25,000 a year in Europe.
But experts say the death toll could reach ten million a year globally within the next 30 years.
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The report by the House of Commons’ health and social care select committee says the Government has not done enough to combat antimicrobial resistance and must make it ‘a top-five policy priority’.
Professor Dame Sally Davies, England’s chief medical officer, told the inquiry that failing to do so would mean ‘modern medicine is lost’.
Cancer patients often depend on antimicrobial medicines to protect them while their immune systems are weakened by chemotherapy. However, the report warns that patients may soon face agonising decisions over whether or not to have cancer treatment or surgery because risk of death through microbial infection may outweigh the benefits of treatment.
Despite the growing threat, no new antibiotic classes have been developed for decades and research is declining because it is not profitable for pharmaceutical firms.
This is because new antibiotics would only be prescribed sparingly rather than as a first-line treatment like other medications.
The report suggests new ways of funding potential treatments are needed to make it worthwhile for drugs companies. This could involve changes to patent law and to the ways in which pharmaceutical companies are reimbursed for new antimicrobial medicines.
Tory MP Dr Sarah Wollaston, the committee chair, said: ‘In six months we want to see tangible progress on implementing practical policies to reverse the worrying exodus from AMR research and development and both Government and industry should play their part in tackling this issue.’
The Government is aiming to half the number of unnecessary antibiotic prescriptions by 2020.
Figures show doctors have cut prescription rates by 13 per cent in five years but these are still double those of the Netherlands, Sweden and the Baltic States. The report found digital health tools for clinicians and policymakers can dramatically reduce the threat of antimicrobial resistance. But it said there has been great variation in uptake of the tools.
It suggests a single organisation should be given responsibility for co-ordinating prompt evidence-based prescriptions of such medicines across the NHS.
Last month the committee heard that the problem had been a ‘top-five’ issue under David Cameron’s government, but has since slipped down the policy agenda.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: ‘We are committed to tackling the issue both at home and internationally.
‘We have invested record amounts in research and development, and we will set ourselves challenging ambitions for the next five years.’
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