PM told 'act urgently on superbugs'
David Cameron must back his words with "decisive and urgent action" to tackle the spectre of antibiotic resistance, a committee of MPs has said.
Days after delivering a call to arms to defeat the superbugs, the Prime Minister was urged not to wait for the outcome of a two year review addressing the problem.
Steps had to be taken now to ensure that antibiotics were no longer given to people and animals inappropriately, said the Science and Technology Committee.
One radical idea was to develop a system of monitoring the behaviour of patients after they are prescribed the drugs.
There was also a need for more Government-funded research, better training of doctors, "rigorous" public awareness campaigns, and "cheap, rapid and accurate diagnostic tests".
A report from the MPs said: "For too long, antibiotics have been used as if they were a bottomless pit of cure-all miracle treatments. Antibiotics are ineffective against viruses and other diseases that are not caused by bacteria and the unnecessary prescription of antibiotics has contributed to the acceleration of antibiotic resistance."
Mr Cameron has pledged to put Britain at the forefront of the fightback against resistant superbugs threatening to send medicine "back to the dark ages".
Last week he announced the appointment of fo rmer Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O'Neill as head of an expert group conducting the new review, which will focus on the global problem of drug resistance and the lack of new medicines.
Science and Technology Committee chairman Andrew Miller MP, said: "We're pleased that the Prime Minister has taken the opportunity just ahead of our report launch to reaffirm his commitment to action on antibiotic resistance, but publishing strategies and announcing reviews is not the same as dealing with the problem.
"A two year review of the incentives needed to develop new antibiotics may lead to necessary action, but what we really need from Government right now is decisive and urgent action to prevent antibiotics from being given to people and animals who do not need them."
He said the committee had heard of GPs prescribing antibiotics simply as "dummy" placebos or to "placate patients with distressing symptoms".
On farms, there was a suspicion that antibiotics were being routinely used on healthy animals.
The report pointed out that since 2000 only five new classes of antibiotic had been discovered and most were ineffective against one of the biggest threats, "gram negative" bacteria.
New financial incentives were needed to persuade drug companies to invest in antibiotics. Of the 18 to 20 companies that were the main suppliers of the drugs 20 years ago, all but a handful had abandoned them because they were not economically worthwhile.
"We urge the Government to undertake immediate scoping of pricing alternatives and to demonstrate to us how they plan to incentivise organisations to invest in new antimicrobials on a global basis," said the MPs.
"The life sciences sector must be encouraged to re-engage in this field before the pipeline of antibiotics runs dry."
The report stressed that policy on antibiotics had to be evidence-based.
It added: "There is a lack of data on the post-prescription behaviour of patients, and we suggest that the Government develops a system for monitoring this.
"Furthermore, there is a lack of information and evidence on the link between resistance in animal pathogens, the environment, and resistance in human pathogens.
"The Government cannot rely on the notion that curiosity-driven research will provide the information it needs and must plan to fund the necessary research directly."