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McMaster researchers want Canada to expedite approval of ‘newer’ antibiotics

Click to play video: 'Superbugs: The global health crisis that threatens modern medicine'
Superbugs: The global health crisis that threatens modern medicine
As the world continues to fight COVID-19, there's a different global health crisis that has been pushed into the background. Antimicrobial resistance, or AMR, is projected to claim 10 million lives every year by 2050. As Candace Daniel discovered for The New Reality, superbugs were already on the rise and now experts believe the pandemic has made the situation worse – Feb 12, 2022

A team of McMaster University researchers is calling on public health officials to improve access to antibiotics in Canada based on data from a recently published review.

The group with the DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research says the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is at stake, considering Canada is the only one of 14 high-income nations introducing just two of 18 new drugs to the public in the past decade.

“We believe that this can be rectified through incentivization and regulatory improvements, as other G7 countries are doing,” said Lori Burrows, associate director of the DeGroote Institute.

“But having these newer antibiotics commercially launched here is just part of the equation. Canada must also expand front-line access to these medications through measures related to data, costs, distribution and supply and demand.”

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A 2019 report from the Council of Canadian Academies outlined the potential consequences of AMR in Canada, revealing that 26 per cent of infections in Canada are currently resistant to the drugs used to treat them.

The study’s estimates, made before the COVID-19 pandemic, expect that number to hit 40 per cent by 2050, potentially costing 400,000 Canadian lives and $388 billion in lost GDP over the next 30 years.

Burrow said a major issue is the cost of getting regulatory approval in Canada, which pharmaceutical companies consider to be high based on the country’s relatively small population.

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Compounding the problem is low use among physicians who only use new antibiotics as a last resort to reduce the development of human drug resistance.

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“These factors make it unlikely that companies will see a return on their investment,” Burrows said.

“However, guaranteeing revenue for manufacturers — similar to what the government did to purchase COVID-19 vaccines — reduces those financial risks and encourages companies to bring these life-saving medications to the Canadian market.”

The proposal, created jointly with biomedical consultants the Canadian Antimicrobial Innovation Coalition, presents a set of 30 concise recommendations and an integrated solution.

McMaster University / Canadian Antimicrobial Innovation Coalition

Measures include streamlining market approval of antibiotics already approved by the EMA in the European Union or the FDA in the U.S., funding to help Canadian hospitals purchase new drugs, and an incentive model based on an antibiotic’s overall value to the Canadian health-care system.

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Antibiotic-resistant germs likely caused more than 1.2 million deaths globally in just one year during 2019, according to estimates published in the medical journal Lancet in January.

The paper, which used data from hospitals, surveillance systems and other studies, suggests the deaths were linked to 23 germs in 204 countries and territories.

In November, Canada’s chief public health officer acknowledged AMR as one of the top 10 global health issues to track based on a World Health Organization declaration in 2021.

Dr. Theresa Tam released her own report on the matter during World Antimicrobial Awareness Week, suggesting more study is needed on the drugs and their effects on people, animals, plants and the environment.

“By designing and implementing multi-sectoral programs, policies, legislation and research with individuals from human, animal and plant health, food and feed production, and the environment, AMR can be effectively addressed and information can be broadly communicated to achieve better … outcomes,” Tam said in a statement.

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