Press release |

MSF response to global launch of: ‘A New Pharma Initiative takes on the Antibiotic Innovative Challenge’

Photograph by Mario Fawaz
At MSF’s post-operative care hospital in Mosul (Iraq), infection and prevention control (IPC) measures are implemented. One of the pillars of IPC consists in cleaning, sterilizing and sanitizing. Here, an MSF nurse is preparing equipment prior to a surgery.

Geneva, 9 July 2020 - As the pharmaceutical industry, policy makers from high-income countries, and philanthropic organisations gear up to launch a new antibiotics initiative, Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders (MSF) cautions against taking a ‘business-as-usual’ approach by continuing to rely on the current market-based research and development (R&D) paradigm that has largely failed to deliver new antibiotics. 

MSF faces serious challenges preventing, diagnosing and treating drug-resistant infections in the people we care for – from people living with tuberculosis in South Africa, to people with burn injuries in Haiti, the war-wounded in Syria as well as newborns in Pakistan. 

As the current R&D model relies fundamentally on maximising profits, the pharmaceutical industry has been extremely reluctant to invest in antibiotic development, which it sees as less profitable. As a result, over the last 30 years, no new class of antibiotics has reached patients. 

Product development partnerships, such as the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership (GARDP) play a crucial role in integrating access and stewardship conditions within the R&D model for effective delivery of needed new antibiotics. 

Dušan Jasovský, Antimicrobial Resistance Pharmacist, MSF Access Campaign: 

“In many of the places we work, we are running out of options to treat people with drug-resistant infections. The ‘business-as-usual’ market approach of doling out large public subsidies to pharmaceutical corporations without the strings attached that are needed to ensure fast, affordable and sustainable access is no longer a tenable solution. Our past experiences of dealing with emerging outbreaks, such as Ebola, has shown us that even with substantial public investment, pharmaceutical corporations often deprioritise less profitable areas and, as a result, have been slow to deliver needed vaccines and treatments. 

We can’t keep trying the same thing and expect different results—what is needed to truly ensure faster development and access to new antibiotics is joint public and private cooperation prioritising public health over profits. Any venture resulting from such cooperation must promote swift sharing of information and research findings, make all relevant intellectual property and data publicly available for all to use, and ensure transparency across the board. To manage the public health emergency arising from antimicrobial resistance, we need to also see access conditions and stewardship principles embedded in such a venture.  

Effective antibiotic treatments must be sustainably available and accessible to everyone in need, because medicines shouldn’t be a luxury.”