Economist Lord Jim O’Neill recently released a report detailing the costs of not fighting antibiotic resistance. Bacteria resistance to drugs appears to have worsened, and O’Neill’s report revealed that by 2050, 10 million people every year could perish from drug-resistant bugs if we don’t take action.

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O’Neill suggested that pharmaceutical companies should be required to invest in research to develop new, effective antibiotics. He also said doctors should stop dishing out antibiotics unless a person truly needs them, discerned through rapid testing. If a rapid test doesn’t exist, it must be developed and subsidized for developing countries.

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“I find it incredible that doctors must still prescribe antibiotics based only on their immediate assessment of a patient’s symptoms, just like they used to when antibiotics first entered common use in the 1950’s,” O’Neill said. “We must stop treating antibiotics like sweets, which is what we are doing around the world today.”

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O’Neill didn’t stop there. He attacked the use of antibiotics as growth promoters in the food industry, particularly in the United States, although the practice is widespread. According to The Guardian, one of “the antibiotics of last resort,” Colistin, was recently found to be ineffective in China, where it had been given to farm animals. O’Neill said, “In some parts of the world, probably in the largest emerging economies and and almost definitely in the United States, the use of antibiotics in animals is greater than in humans and that means the misuse is probably higher too.”

Implementing O’Neill’s suggestions wouldn’t be cheap. In his report, he said enacting his proposals could cost $40 billion over the course of 10 years. But inaction comes with a heftier price tag. O’Neill estimates the cost to society to be potentially $100 trillion every year. Even worse would be the cost in millions of human lives.

Via The Guardian

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