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Taxpayers should pay billions to fund new antibiotics, Government adviser says

A global subsidy to support the development of new antibiotics is the latest proposal from a Government-appointed troubleshooter Credit: PA

Taxpayers' cash should be used to "incentivise" drugs firms to develop superbug-resistant antibiotics, a Government adviser has said in a new report.

Former Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O'Neill suggests paying up to £24 billion to drug developers to maintain a "viable market" for high-priority antibiotics.

Mr O'Neill, who was appointed by David Cameron last year, said that the proposed cost would be "peanuts" compared to the estimated £63 trillion cost if superbugs continue to spiral out of control, The Times reported.

Antibiotics offer a poor return to drug companies Credit: PA

Antibiotics offer a poor return to drug companies because they are costly to develop yet are only taken for a short period of time to fight off infection.

Mr O'Neill says the proposal would mean drug companies would be under less pressure to sell large amounts of new antibiotics, which contributes to the spread of drug resistance.

No new classes of antibiotics have been created for decades and our current drugs are becoming less effective as resistance increases.

We need to kick-start drug development to make sure the world has the drugs it needs, to treat infections and to enable modern medicine and surgery to continue as we know it.

My review on AMR (anti-microbial resistance) has today published clear proposals to supercharge antibiotics discovery, potentially saving millions of lives for a fraction of the 100 trillion USD (US dollars) cost of inaction.

– Economist Jim O'Neill

Other proposals included a global innovation fund of around $2 billion (£1.27 billion) over five years that would be used to help boost funding for "blue-sky" research into new drugs and diagnostic tools.

Dame Sally Davies, the Government's chief medical adviser, said: "We have to respond to the challenge of antimicrobial resistance by making sure we secure the necessary antibiotics for generations to come, in order to save millions of lives and billions of pounds."