World Health Leaders Agree on Action to Combat Antimicrobial Resistance, Warning of Nearly 10 Million Deaths Annually If Left Unchecked
New York: World leaders gathered at a high-level meeting on antimicrobial resistance on Wednesday, 21 September and committed to concerted action to address the phenomenon, which many warned could lead to significant development backslides and up to 10 million deaths annually by 2050 if left unchecked.
Participants stressed that antimicrobial resistance — the ability of microorganisms to adapt to medications such as antibiotics, rendering them ineffective — posed a number of grave threats to humanity, including a possible resurgence in tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS deaths and food insecurity due to negative impacts on agriculture.
Acting by acclamation, they agreed to a number of actions outlined in a draft political declaration, to be transmitted to the General Assembly for adoption.
India aligned with the statement made by General Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of Kingdom of Thailand, on behalf of the Group of 77 at the high level meeting on the issue of Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR) which has become a global concern.
Addressing the high level meeting at the 71 Session of United Nations General Assembly on 21 September Minister of State for External Affairs M. J. Akbar described the Meeting as timely by pointing out that AMR is still a relatively lesser known, but serious risk to the lives and health of people around the world.
Statement by M J Akbar:
This is not a localised problem but another truly global challenge that will affect us all, wherever we are. It requires a collective response that is as yet lacking.
Science explains the causes of this growing problem in terms of accelerated mutations linked to the overuse of anti-microbials. The growing use of anti-microbials is happening for a variety of reasons – by patients; by meat industry for livestock; by farmers in agriculture.
This is not a challenge that emanates either from developed or developing countries alone, since injudicious use occurs in all countries in various ways. The blame lies in some measure with all of us.
The health systems in various countries reflect, to a large extent, their current levels of development. The prevalence of infectious diseases, access to quality vaccines and affordable healthcare also vary according to the levels of development.
In a large number of countries, the primary concern is to provide access to affordable quality medicines in the first instance. The lack of clean drinking water and sanitation also contribute to a higher incidence of infectious diseases. This becomes more of a development linked challenge in such cases.
The problem also emanates from the overuse of antimicrobials to boost growth and productivity owing to food industry pressures and commercial industrial farming interests. Another major cause has been a lack of investment into the development of new antibiotics signifying a market failure over the past few decades.
Solutions to the challenge are known. Preventive measures in terms of providing clean water for drinking and sanitation; strengthening health systems to provide affordable and quality universal health coverage, medicines, diagnostics and vaccines; and appropriate surveillance and monitoring systems are as important as investment into R&D to develop new medicines.
In this context, we welcome the Report by the Secretary General’s Panel on Access to Medicines. Access to medicines is crucial for the realization of health related goals, an indivisible and integral part of the SDGs. As highlighted by the Report, the existing imbalance between IPR and public health is leaving people behind. Therefore, we must prioritise incentivizing investment in R&D for health technology innovation.
The One Health concept that links human health with that of animals and environment is an important one that is strongly relevant for AMR.
Taking action on AMR and the problem of unattended diseases affecting developing countries is also highlighted in the Agenda 2030.
India is acutely aware of what the growth of the AMR phenomenon portents for all of us. A National Policy on AMR has been in place for the last five years. Relevant initiatives undertaken include a campaign for Clean India (Swachha Bharat) focusing on sanitation and mapping health facilities; infection prevention and control; monitoring and surveillance among others.
Prime Minister Modi in his recent radio broadcast to the nation spoke at length about the problem and urged a rational use of antibiotics based on proper medical prescription. He also highlighted the use of red band markers on antibiotic packaging. The Government has finalised a roadmap to develop our National Action Plan in line with the Global Action Plan prepared by the WHO.
Earlier this year, India hosted a Ministerial WHO South East Asia Region Seminar on AMR. My colleague participated in the Tokyo Meeting of Health Ministers of Asia Pacific Region on AMR few months back.
India also continues to promote the rich heritage of traditional medicines comprising Ayurveda, Yoga, Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy in pursuing a more holistic healthy life.
I am confident that our deliberations at the UNGA and the adoption of the Declaration today will help raise awareness at a much more wider level and encourage governments, other stakeholders and general public to gain a better understanding of the task at hand.