Government Facing Ticking Time Bomb Over Lack of Desperately Needed New Antibiotics, warns Antibiotic Action

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Antibiotic Action, a global initiative urging the UK government to support the desperate need for new antibiotics, is delivering a petition to 10 Downing Street on 9 November calling for urgent action, including the acceleration of the approved licensing process so antibiotics can be developed more speedily.

Prof Laura Piddock

Prof Laura Piddock:
“The magnitude of the crisis we face becomes apparent when we note that 16 new antibacterial agents were approved and brought to market between 1983-1987, compared with less than four agents between 2008-12."

The government is warned that the NHS faces a ticking time bomb over the lack of modern antibiotics due to increasing resistance to infections, and must take immediate action to prevent an unprecedented crisis, says a group of scientists and medical experts who are supporting a global initiative by Antibiotic Action.

The situation is so grave that they believe urgent action is needed to accelerate the approved licensing process for new antibiotics, adopting similar regulatory procedures that produced antiviral therapies for the treatment of HIV/AIDS more speedily.

Professor Laura Piddock, President of the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy(BSAC), warns that we face a near depletion of effective antibiotics which could have a devastating impact on global health, and that we need to identify new ways of public/private partnership for their discovery, research and development.

She says: “The magnitude of the crisis we face becomes apparent when we note that 16 new antibacterial agents were approved and brought to market between 1983-1987, compared with less than four agents between 2008-12.

“The dearth of new antibiotics reaching the marketplace today potentially threatens not only the management of “superbugs”, such as NDM 1 producing E. coli and multi-drug resistant gonorrhoea, but also the success of many routine treatments and procedures, from life-saving transplants and cancer chemotherapy, to joint replacements and therapies for cystic fibrosis sufferers. I fear there could be a return to a pre-antibiotic era where many people suffer or die from untreatable bacterial infections.”

Recently, BSAC has launched a global initiative,Antibiotic Action, to highlight its grave concerns and has already received more than 1,000 signatures from UK citizens, plus considerable international support for its petition which will be presented at 10 Downing Street on Wednesday, 9 November.

The petition, which has been signed by researchers, scientists and clinicians working in the NHS, as well as the public, calls upon the government to identify the following:

1.    What opportunities exist to safely streamline and accelerate the licensing processes for new antibiotic agents.
2.    How to address and incentivise the commercial challenges faced by industry in developing and bringing new antibiotics to the marketplace.
3.    Initiatives to that will encourage greater partnership working between pharmaceutical and diagnostics companies as well as academia in the UK in order to maximise the conversion of discovered candidate molecules into licensed antibiotics available for use on the NHS.

Antibiotic Action has the support of MP Kevin Barron, who is hosting an event in Westminster on 9 November which is hoped will result in establishment of an All-Party Parliamentary Group on Antimicrobial Discovery, Research and Development. There are also plans to table and Early Day Motion at the event.

Mr Barron says: “Antibiotic Action is bringing together government with patient charities, partner organisations and clinicians to discuss key drivers that will stimulate interest and investment in the discovery and development of new antibiotics. I am supporting this initiative and look forward to the future where we start to see positive collaborations in this very important area.”

The campaign is also supported by ITV’s Dr Hilary Jones, who will speak at the Antibiotic Action parliamentary event on addressing the public need, and will also join supporters in delivering the petition to 10 Downing Street.

He says: “As a general practitioner I am very aware of the essential role antibiotics play in ensuring the health of our nation. Antibiotics not only combat mild bacterial infections that I see every week in my GP surgery, but they are also vital in hospital practice. They not only save lives but have a crucial role in improving the quality of life too. As patron of charities such as The Meningitis Research Foundation, Diabetes UK and Bliss, I have met many people who simply would not have survived without them.

“Health practitioners are working hard to use antibiotics appropriately so that antibiotic resistance does not reduce the number of effective treatments available. This is one small step in ensuring we can treat infections – mild and life-threatening – in the future. There must be more action from all to support the discovery and development of new agents.”

The media invited to attend the following events on Wednesday, 9 November:

Parliamentary launch: 1300 – 1500
Delivery of petition at 10 Downing Street: 1600

Please confirm with ellee.seymour(at)btopenworld if you would like to attend or request an interview, phone 07939 811961


Notes to Editors:

Further information is available from:

Press Officer Ellee Seymour
    Tel: 07939 811961
    Email: ellee.seymour(at)btopenworld(dot)com

Professor Laura Piddock
    Tel: O121 414 6966
    Email: l.j.v.piddock(at)bham(dot)ac(dot)uk

Laura Piddock is President of the British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy and Professor at the University of Birmingham and leads a research team investigating clinically important antibiotic resistance:


  •     The majority of antibiotics used today were discovered over 45 years ago .
  •     1980 - more than 20 large, profitable companies had antibiotic discovery programmes 2011 only 6 remain.
  •     WHO listed infections due to resistant bacteria at the top of their preliminary ranking of pharmaceutical gaps in 2004, above pandemic influenza cardiovascular disease, and cancer.
  •     In EU in 2007 the cost of resistance to antibacterials calculated at 900 million euros annually and 600 million days of lost productivity.

References: Discovery research: the scientific challenge of finding new antibiotics, David Livermore,
Effective antibacterials: at what cost? The economics of antibacterial resistance and its control, Tony White




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