10,000,000 lives at risk: the urgent need for a lifecourse approach to immunisation

The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, led by the UK’s Lord Jim ‘O Neill warns that global medicine risks being plunged ‘back into the dark ages’ because of the excessive use of antibiotics.

The report calls for urgent action to address the rise of antimicrobial resistance, as the over-prescription of antibiotics could lead to such medicines becoming impotent within a generation.

Modelling conducted by Rand Europe and KPMG estimates that 10,000,000 could die of antibiotic resistant infections each year by 2050 unless dramatic measures are taken in the immediate future.

The report recommends a range of measures, including a ‘massive global awareness campaign’ to highlight the risk of unnecessary antibiotic use, and the promotion of immunisation as an alternative to excessive antibiotic prescription.

Proposals also include establishing a $2 bilion Global Innovation Fund for early stage antibiotic research, and awards of $1 bilion for the discovery of new antibiotics.

However, Dr Frania Brigden of Médecins Sans Frontières criticised the report’s proposals for ‘not necessarily ensuring access to existing tools’.

Research into the cost-benefit of lifecourse approaches to immunisation have already demonstrated that every 1 euro spent on adult immunisation returns 4 euros to national economies.

As the report recognises the necessity of prevention, in the form of immunisation, as opposed to cure through the use of antibiotics, the case for increased investment to expand the coverage of national immunisation campaigns is clear; medical practitioners, health economists and other interested parties may well urge the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance to specifically call for increased investment in immunisation provision.

The Review’s findings demonstrate that promoting greater access and a lifecourse approach to immunisation not only reduces overall health spending and relieves fiscal pressures; with a potential 10,000,000 milion lives a year at risk, immunisation is critical for the future of medicine.