India needs to help solve global problem of antibiotic overuse

India needs to step up to the plate and help industries across the globe stop overuse of antibiotics, which leads to many diseases becoming multidrug-resistant, according to the head of a British commission looking into the problem.

Jim O'Neill

In an interview with The Hindu newspaper, former Goldman Sachs economist Jim O'Neill, who heads a panel on the issue, and who is perhaps best known for coining the term "BRICs" in relation to the economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China, said India's generic industry will have a major role to play.

The panel he chairs, which was started last year, has issued a series of reports on antibiotic abuse. Its latest report highlighted the need to develop inexpensive and fast diagnostic tools to ensure that the most narrow spectrum of antibiotics are given. The panel also recommended that a global research and development fund be established to study antimicrobial resistance, The Hindu reported.

The panel's review has found that up to 10 million people around the world could die by 2050 because of antibiotic resistance.

"We don't suggest that people shouldn't get the right antibiotics," O'Neill told The Hindu. "In many parts of the world there is a huge need for the right kinds of antibiotics to preserve and lengthen people's lives--we want to be clear that it should happen more and better, but in order to help that, we need to have better objective indications as to when they are really necessary rather than used, because they might be of some benefit."

Indian diagnostic companies have a role to play in battling antibiotic resistance, O'Neill told The Hindu. He cited India's SRL, whose managing director Sanjeev Chaudhry is an adviser to the review panel.

Cipla Chairman Yusuf Hamied

O'Neill said the Indian company provides top technology and affordability and said two top British hospitals were using its services to test blood samples. He also said generic companies like Cipla, whose chairman, Yusuf Hamied, is also on the review panel as an adviser, have a role to play.

"People would rightly say he has personally been responsible for saving millions of lives through generics, and we think there is a huge role for that to be a central part of the solution," O'Neill told The Hindu.

He added that the challenge is Western companies are focusing on drugs they can protect from competition "for as long a time as possible and at a higher charge. But for something that is a public and global good, we need to find the right set of incentives and rewards to help them behave and think differently. The way Cipla has approached life is a fantastic example and something we want to endorse," he told The Hindu.

- here's the story from The Hindu