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10 million to die by 2050 without new antibiotics: O'Neill

Ten million people could die every year unless new antibiotics are produced says Jim O'Neill, the economist and former chair of Goldman Sachs Asset Management

14.05.2015
10 million to die by 2050 without new antibiotics: O'Neill

ANKARA

 Non-functional antibiotics could cost the global economy $100 trillion over the next 35 years and cause 10 million deaths by 2050, said economist Jim O'Neill, former chair of Goldman Sachs Asset Management.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency on Thursday, O'Neill called on Turkey to put antibiotics development on the G20’s agenda during its G20 presidency in 2015.

O'Neill was appointed in 2014 by David Cameron, re-elected U.K. prime minister, to research ways to  look for ways to reverse the rising tide of drug-resistant microbes.  

In recent years, the pharmaceutical industry has pulled out of antibiotic research due to worries about potential returns on the very large investments required.

"Perhaps if we would've started a year earlier, I may have suggested that Turkey should put it as a priority for Turkey’s G20 leadership. But we only started very late last year, when I’m guessing a lot of the thinking had already been done. But if Turkey could influence this, it would be pretty good to have it on the Turkish agenda too," O'Neill said.

"Next year China is going to host the G20. It is a very unique moment in time because China has never done that before. China is already the second most important economy in the world. Many people think it is on the way to becoming the biggest," he said. 

O'Neill said 10 million people could die through 2050 if no new antibiotics are produced.

"If the world can’t find new drugs and we continue behaving the same as we are today, by 2050, which is the number I deliberately chose because it is famous in the 'bric' and 'mint' context, there’s going to be at least 10 million people around the world dying every year from microbial resistance to antibiotics," he said. O'Neill is famous as an economist for having invented the economic term BRICs, Brazil, Russia, India and China,  and MINTs, which refers to  Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria, and Turkey.

And between now and then, the world will be an $100 trillion smaller than otherwise it would be the case. So the cost of not doing anything is enormous. To make that problem go away, we need to change all of our behavior, we need to have better diagnostics and we need more drugs,” O'Neill insisted.

"Creating a more stable commercial end market for antibiotics in this way should, over time, encourage investment into the earlier stages of the pipeline. But we think we should also jump-start a new innovation cycle in antibiotics by getting more money into early stage research. A global  antimicrobial resistance innovation Fund of around $2 billion over 5 years would help boost funding for blue-sky research into drugs and diagnostics, and get more good ideas off the ground," the review on antimicrobial resistance, which was chaired by O'Neill, said in a statement. 

According to the review a comprehensive package of interventions could cost as little $16 billion, and no more than $37 billion over the course of 10 years. 

 Resistance to antibiotics has been described by the World Health Organization as the single greatest challenge in infectious diseases, such as malaria and HIV/AIDS, today, threatening rich and poor countries.

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