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Research Impact on Public Health Policy: Antimicrobial Resistance

last modified Sep 19, 2016 03:11 PM
New case study on public health policy engagement


Serving as Economic Advisor for the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance


Dr Flavio Toxvaerd is a Lecturer at the University of Cambridge’s Faculty of Economics. From 2014 to 2016 he served as the Economic Advisor for the Government and Wellcome Trust-commissioned independent Review on Antimicrobial Resistance. In May 2016 the Review published its 10 recommendations around how we can tackle this worsening global public health crisis.


Antimicrobials refer to a range of drugs including antibacterials, antifungals, antimalarials, and antivirals. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) occurs when microbes evolve in such a way as to become resistant to our once effective antimicrobials. While AMR is part of a natural evolutionary process, humans are accelerating it, for example through the unnecessary use of antibiotics. AMR is visible across the world, and is already seen in a range of antimicrobials that were once effective in addressing conditions such as HIV, tuberculosis, pneumonia, and urinary tract infections.’ It is estimated that in Europe and the US, 50,000 individuals die annually because of AMR, and that the annual global figure is around 700,000. The increasingly dangerous situation is expected to lead to growing fatalities and costs, and some predict that by 2050 AMR will be responsible for 10 million deaths each year – more than currently die from cancer. 

As the causes of AMR are varied, the solutions will need to be, as well. A critical part of the puzzle is altering the current incentive structure in which it does not make sense for pharmaceutical companies to invest in creating new effective drugs as it is expensive, the low hanging fruit has been picked, and once new drugs are created we will want to use them sparingly. The core of the team’s work involved tackling these demand and supply side challenges.

In 2014, the UK Government, along with the Wellcome Trust, commissioned the independent Review on Antimicrobial Resistance in order to seek out potential social and economic solutions. Cambridge’s Dr Toxvaerd joined the Review team as an Economic Advisor. Along with his colleagues on the Review team, Dr Toxvaerd came up with ten key recommendations to tackle the crisis. The team’s main proposals around the supply and demand challenges included funding market entry rewards consisting of approximately $1 billion US to incentivise the creation of new drugs, and the creation of a global innovation fund to finance non-commercial and early stage R&D.

To read the case study in full, click here.

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