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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Experts on antibiotics ask the UN to act on improving access to Antibiotics

Contributed by: Siddarth David & Dr. Tamhankar

Experts on antibiotic resistance called on the United Nations General Assembly meeting in September this year to decisively act to reduce the growing number of deaths due to limited access to effective antibiotics. Writing in the Lancet, they say that even though many current antibiotics are losing their effectiveness, millions of people do not have ready access to effective antibiotics. Ramanan Laxminarayan, director of the Center for Disease Dynamics, Economics & Policy, and a lead author of the call to action pointed out that many deaths are caused by insufficient access and delays in getting antibiotics while resistance is being reported at all levels.

To develop an effective plan, both these issues need to considered according to the article. Laxminarayan and his co-authors are calling on the UN General Assembly to establish a UN High-Level Coordinating Mechanism on Antimicrobial Resistance (HLCM) that will also require the involvement of organizations such as UNICEF, UNDP, UNEP, UNESCO, and the World Bank. The effort would have four core responsibilities:

  • Launch a global advocacy campaign to raise awareness about the lack of access to antibiotics and drug resistance
  • Monitor and evaluate defined, enforceable targets to reduce the number of deaths globally due to lack of access and inappropriate use of antibiotics in humans as well as animals
  • Mobilize resources from donors, aid agencies and countries to effectively finance the effort, and
  • Support and coordinate multi-sectoral action to implement the World Health Organization's Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance alongside national efforts to improve access to effective antibiotics.
The authors state that the UN must play a central role in the fight against a global health problem that could undo much of the progress the world has made against disease and poverty and this can lead to effective tackling of the problem like the HIV/AIDS commitments in 1996.

This is only the third time in its history that the UN General Assembly will use its High-Level Heads of State meeting to deliberate on a health issue that threatens the health of populations worldwide. This is also the first time that a One Health issue, a concept which involves the health of humans, animals and the environment, is being discussed at this high-level forum. Such strong global commitments can lead to greater success in the battle against antibiotic resistance.