A long list of drugmakers and industry organizations has come together in the hopes of once again bringing antimicrobial resistance to lawmakers’ attention.
The group penned a letter to Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), chair and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, respectively, in support of the PASTEUR Act which would address the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance with a subscription-based payment model.
Under the PASTEUR model, the federal government would ink contracts for a supply of new antibiotics, paying drugmakers a set price regardless of how many doses are actually used.
The letter, dated Wednesday, states:
Under PASTEUR, the federal government can enter into contracts with innovators to pay for a reliable supply of novel antimicrobials with payments that are decoupled from the volume of antimicrobials used. Importantly, the federal government only pays once – the subscription payment is all-inclusive, and PASTEUR only pays for success.
“This is a drug class that we have to think about paying for drugs in a different way,” said Kevin Outterson, a Boston University law professor and founder of the nonprofit CARB-X to support antibacterial research. “We want to save them [antibiotics] for the future, and that’s great, but the company will go bankrupt.”
Despite a rising threat of antimicrobial resistance, Big Pharma has essentially retreated from the risky field, where many antibiotics either fail in development or wither on the vine due to a lack of available funding. The ones that do get approved are often used sparingly to preserve effectiveness and slow the development of further resistance.
More than 150 industry advocates sent a letter to Congress last year in support of the PASTEUR Act, and many of them returned to sign the most recent one, including GSK, PhRMA, BIO, and the Broad Institute. Merck was among the new signatories on Wednesday.
“Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a serious threat to health security in the US and globally,” GSK said in a statement to Endpoints News. “We hope Congress will take this ‘silent pandemic’ seriously and include PASTEUR in the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness Reauthorization Act (PAHPA) reauthorization this year.”
In 2019, antimicrobial resistance was a direct cause of about 1.27 million deaths worldwide, according to the letter, and experts have predicted that it could lead to as many as 10 million deaths per year by 2050.
“We urge policymakers to address the growing threat of AMR by passing the Pioneering Antimicrobial Subscriptions to End Upsurging Resistance (PASTEUR) Act on any moving vehicle, including the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act reauthorization. The bill is a commonsense proposal that will create desperately needed incentives to encourage the development of and ensure the availability of new antimicrobial medicines for the future,” a PhRMA spokesperson told Endpoints.
The AMR Action Fund — backed by a handful of Big Pharma companies, including Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Merck, Johnson & Johnson, Boehringer Ingelheim and GSK — made its first investments to boost the development of new antimicrobials last year.
However, as Outterson put it: “There’s a lot of money being spent, but all of that requires that the companies that get to approvals actually don’t get crushed economically.”
“PASTEUR will at least restore a small but healthy ecosystem for antibacterial R&D, because this is something we have to fix,” he added.