EU incentives for Innovation in pharmaceuticals – especially needed for human antibiotics

By Peter Liese, MEP (EPP Group), Member of the ENVI Committee

Too many people in Europe die every year due to antibiotic resistances. The EU must react and needs to find solutions.

According to the World Health Organi- zation (WHO) 25.000 people die in Europe every year because antibiotics are powerlessly confronted with fast developing resistances. Having used too many (and too often the same) antibiotic pharmaceuticals, resistances could develop and are now becoming a major and alarmingly health issue. Some experts fear that we are entering a so called post- antibiotic-era and WHO experts and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) warn us, because the amount of antibiotic resistances nearly doubled in a few years in some regions.

We need new strategies to fight antibiotic resistances. In my opinion the European Union needs to act with a twin-track strategy. Meaning on the one hand finding strategies to reduce the use of antibiotics.

In 2015 started, for example, a contest, initiated by Horizon2020, of which aim it is to find solutions for a better use of antibiotics. Especially rapid test methods for finding out whether an antibiotic therapy is really needed are necessary.

On the other hand we need to support pharmaceutical research for finding new antibiotics. Although it is very important to reduce the use of antibiotics and thus act preventively, we also have to be able to react and to treat patients. They can be helped by using new and better antibiotics.

Big pharmaceutical companies cannot set the standards and determine the goals of research in terms of looking for the most lucrative sectors that ́s why no new antibiotics entered the market for many years. Therefore, the European Union needs to provide best conditions for excellent research, motivated by the claim to improve patient’s treatments. We must not forget what research is for nothing but for human beings.

We know the problem of again and again new developments of antibiotic resistances not only in human medicine but in veterinary medicine as well. We have a lot of scientific evidence that antibiotic resistant bacteria that emerge in animals is creating problems for humans e.g. when farmers or veterinaries that carry this bacteria entering a hospital. Here Europe is taking action. The European Parliament already agreed on a Commission’s proposal to tackle the problem. We need to assure a prudent use of antibiotics while at the same time develop new antibiotics. We hope to agree on the proposal with the council of ministers soon. But in my view action in the field of human medicine is even more urgent.

Why giving incentives to the industry when they develop a new antibiotic for animals and not doing the same for a company that develops new antibiotics for humans? I cannot see any convincing reason to do so, that is why I urge the European Commission to make a corresponding legislative proposal as soon as possible.

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