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Upfront payment scheme for antibiotics underway

A scheme to encourage the development of new antibiotics by offering to pay pharmaceutical companies upfront for their work starts this week. The Government is offering two contracts to develop the new medicines, which will be paid for by a ‘subscription-style’ payment model.

The Government hopes the scheme will incentivise pharmaceutical companies to bring new classes of antibiotics to market. The two procurement exercises will be run in parallel: one for an antimicrobial recently introduced to the UK market, and a second for a new antimicrobial with plans to launch in the UK before January 2021. Of particular interest to the NHS are antibiotics that can provide alternative treatment options for serious infections such as bloodstream infections, sepsis and hospital-acquired pneumonia.

The high cost and low returns associated with antibiotic research and development has made it commercially unattractive for pharmaceutical companies, and few new classes of antibiotics have been discovered in the last 30 years.

The payment model, which was first announced in July 2019, will pay pharmaceutical companies upfront for access to their antibiotic product, based on a product’s value to the NHS, rather than how much is used.

Two drugs that prove to be both safe and effective will be selected by the end of the year to undergo assessment by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence in 2021. The assessment will be used to decide the level of the subscription payment. Suppliers can register their interest for the scheme on NHS England’s eTendering Service from this week.

Professor Dame Sally Davies, UK special envoy on antimicrobial resistance, said: “Antibiotics underpin modern medicine and are integral for global health security. Governments and industry must work together to produce new antibiotics and ensure that we can continue to treat common diseases. The UK is leading the way by encouraging companies to produce new antibiotics to stay one step ahead of life-threatening diseases.”

The UK launched a 5-year national action plan for antimicrobial resistance in 2019 and is the first country in the world to announce it will test models that pay companies for antimicrobials based primarily on a health technology assessment of their overall value to the NHS, as opposed to the volumes used.

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