In a joint declaration at the World Economic Forum, more than 80 pharmaceutical companies have called on governments to develop new ways of paying them to develop antibiotics. In return, they have promised to invest in research and improve access to antibiotics around the world. 

Recently there have been repeated warnings that the world is on the verge of a 'post-antibiotic era', with antibiotics diminishing in their effectiveness and raising the prospect of untreatable infections. It would be a world in which surgery and cancer therapies that are reliant on antibiotics would be under threat, reports the BBC. Drug-resistant microbes are predicted to kill 10 million people a year by 2050 and cost $100 trillion in lost economic output. 

However, no new class of antibiotic has been brought to market against Gram negative bacteria for more than four decades. Drug companies cite funding as one of the biggest impediments to pharmaceutical research into new antibiotic treatments as the company is only paid for the medication it sells. The WHO and its member states have called for the development of new antimicrobial medicines and affordable access to them, in line with the global action plan on antimicrobial resistance. 

Commenting on this declaration, Lucie Prothero, senior associate in the clinical negligence team at Penningtons Manches, said: “The alarms being raised about the diminishing potency of antibiotic drugs and the fact that little appears to have been done towards developing new antibiotic therapies is very worrying. 

“We deal with many cases of delayed diagnosis and treatment of infections giving rise to sepsis, which can result in severe harm to a person's health and, devastatingly, sometimes death. We also see the vital role that antibiotic therapy plays in the care of our many surgical and cancer patient clients. It is an alarming prospect that we could be facing a world where, even with timely diagnosis and treatment of infectious disease, antibiotic treatment could be futile. We hope that the latest calls from the pharmaceutical companies for more investment in research are listened to so that we can work towards averting the prospect of a post-antibiotic era."