MSF Response to O’Neill Report on Antimicrobial Resistance

The O’Neill Report is the British Government’s response to tackling the emerging antibiotic resistance crisis. In order to overcome this global threat, all countries must play their part and take action to address the crisis, including funding research and development for new tools—new classes of antibiotics, but also diagnostics and vaccines—while ensuring sustainable and affordable access for those new tools. At the same time, steps need to be taken to conserve existing antibiotics for as long as possible.

"Drug-resistant infections are a looming threat to the work Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) does—they’re everywhere: We see them in war-wounded patients we treat in Jordan and in newborns in Niger. Our medical staff are increasingly seeing people who have infections that can only be treated with one of the last lines of antibiotics. It is vital that this important topic is high on the political agenda as it can no longer be ignored. All countries need to realize the gravity of the issue and take action."

—Dr. Annette Heinzelmann, MSF Medical Director

"The O'Neill report confirms what MSF has long voiced—that the current system of pharmaceutical R&D is not always developing and delivering the drugs, vaccines and diagnostics we need; When they are developed, they are often unaffordable or not suitable for the people who need them most. While the report is an important first step in addressing this broad market failure—including focusing on applying new models of incentivizing innovation, like the 3P project to develop new regimens for drug-resistant tuberculosis—it does not go far enough. The O’Neill report proposes considerable new funding to overcome the failures of pharmaceutical R&D but the proposals do not necessarily ensure access to either existing tools, such as vaccines which continue to have considerable pricing barriers, or emerging new products; Instead, in some cases, the report’s solution is simply to subsidize higher prices rather than trying to overcome them.

Governments and WHO must take a more central role in setting priorities and making decisions about R&D. It is important that the needs of developing countries and particularly neglected people aren’t left behind; They must be considered from the outset when priorities are set, products are designed, and access and conservation strategies are drawn up. The most vulnerable people must not be short-changed or forgotten." 

—Dr. Grania Brigden, TB and AMR advisor for MSF’s Access Campaign