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Private sector leaders shared their business perspectives on AMR during the UN Foundation 2020 Global Dialogue, which was sponsored by Essity – a global hygiene and healthcare company. Steve Waygood is the chief responsible investment officer of Aviva Investors. The international insurance and asset-management firm has a view that AMR is one of the biggest market failures in history. … Market failures are defined as markets that, if left uncorrected, lead to suboptimal outcomes for society. “We feel that there is an urgent need to rectify this.”
AMR is nothing new. “This growing problem is caused by the overuse and underdosing antibiotics,” said Dr. Karsten Hmmrich, Essity Vice President of Health and Medical Solutions. Hemmrich emphasized the danger of this global threat, citing that 25,000 people die every year in just the European Union. In addition, in the 20 most developed economies of the world, approximately 40% of infections caused by bacteria cannot be treated with antibiotics. AMR will make major surgeries and cancer chemotherapy more dangerous, as well as increase the risk of diseases or failures.
Too much at stake
The global COVID-19 epidemic has shown that world leaders must take collective action to combat resistance to antimicrobial treatment and address other significant shortcomings in our society, such as poverty, lack of access to health care, and climate change.
Drug-resistant pathogens are a result of a variety of factors. These include the misuse and excessive use of antimicrobials as well as poor prevention of infection and diseases.
Around 700,000 people worldwide die each year due to drug-resistant infections. Estimates show that if we don’t act, the death toll could rise to 10,000,000 deaths a year – more than cancer deaths.
These are losses that the world cannot withstand. It is for this reason that immediate and decisive action must be taken across all industries and sectors to prevent and control AMR through the responsible use of antibiotics and drug-resistant infection control.
The growing evidence about the dangers of AMR led three major UN agencies – the World Health Organization, the Food and Agriculture Organization, and the World Organization for Animal Health – to endorse a collaborative and industry-wide approach known as One Health. The UN launched One Health Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance in order to further this innovative collaboration.
The group, co-led jointly by the Prime Ministers of Bangladesh and Barbados, includes health and environment ministers from all over the world. It also includes leaders of the private sector from Merck and Mars Inc., as well as members of the academic community and the heads of civil society organizations like the Wellcome Trust.
Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General, said at the Global Leaders Group announcement that “antimicrobial resistance is a major health challenge of our time. We cannot leave this to our children.” Now is the time for new cross-sectoral partnerships to protect our medicines and revive the pipeline of new ones.
WHO estimates that if nothing were done, the cost of AMR would reach $100 trillion by 2050. A significant decrease in the labor force due to AMR could reduce global economic output by 1% to 3 % by 2030.
Inequity would increase around the globe. The World Bank estimates that 24 million people living in low- and middle-income nations will be forced into poverty if superbugs are not stopped.
Unchecked, not only will we fail to reach Sustainable Development Goal 3 (SDG3) on health and wellbeing for all, but also, achieving other SDGs would be more difficult and expensive. The UN Foundation and other partners from the non-profit, business, and philanthropic sectors are working collaboratively and innovatively to end AMR. A global, multi-disciplinary solution is the only way to be successful, given the size of the problem. In order to rebuild better after a pandemic, it is important to invest in and build stronger systems.
Waygood acknowledged that the battle was uphill, but it is one we must fight for the sake of people’s safety.