David Cameron and Xi Jinping Ju Peng/ZumaPress

Wasted Drugs and the Creation of Superbugs

The G-7 countries' health ministers recently agreed to tackle antimicrobial resistance. An especially promising target is drug wastage: By lowering the exposure of bacteria to drugs, we can slow the rise of drug resistance and keep our current medicines useful for longer.

LONDON – This week, British Prime Minister David Cameron and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced a new fund to support research aimed at tackling the problem of so-called superbugs: disease-causing microbes that have become resistant to conventional drugs. It was a hugely rewarding moment for me personally as the chair of an independent review that has been calling for the creation of an innovation fund to address antimicrobial resistance since February. More important, it is a major step toward a real solution to this global problem, one that demonstrates the vital role that emerging-economy scientific and commercial innovation can play, especially when China takes the lead.

The announcement complements a meeting in Berlin earlier this month at which the health ministers of the G-7 countries – Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States – sought solutions to the most pressing global health issues. One vital outcome was a shared commitment to tackle antimicrobial resistance, “first, by improving infection prevention and control; second, by conserving the effectiveness of existing and future antimicrobials; and third, by engaging in research to optimize such approaches and to develop new antimicrobials, vaccines, treatment alternatives, and rapid diagnostic tools.”

These are the right objectives. But they can be effective only if most of the world works toward them simultaneously; after all, drug resistance, like microbes, does not stop for border checks. Here, the greatest responsibility lies with the G-20 countries – and especially its emerging-economy members – which both suffer the most from drug-resistant infections and can do the most to solve the problem.

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.


Log in

  1. An employee works at a chemical fiber weaving company VCG/Getty Images

    China in the Lead?

    For four decades, China has achieved unprecedented economic growth under a centralized, authoritarian political system, far outpacing growth in the Western liberal democracies. So, is Chinese President Xi Jinping right to double down on authoritarianism, and is the “China model” truly a viable rival to Western-style democratic capitalism?

  2. The assembly line at Ford Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

    Whither the Multilateral Trading System?

    The global economy today is dominated by three major players – China, the EU, and the US – with roughly equal trading volumes and limited incentive to fight for the rules-based global trading system. With cooperation unlikely, the world should prepare itself for the erosion of the World Trade Organization.

  3. Donald Trump Saul Loeb/Getty Images

    The Globalization of Our Discontent

    Globalization, which was supposed to benefit developed and developing countries alike, is now reviled almost everywhere, as the political backlash in Europe and the US has shown. The challenge is to minimize the risk that the backlash will intensify, and that starts by understanding – and avoiding – past mistakes.

  4. A general view of the Corn Market in the City of Manchester Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

    A Better British Story

    Despite all of the doom and gloom over the United Kingdom's impending withdrawal from the European Union, key manufacturing indicators are at their highest levels in four years, and the mood for investment may be improving. While parts of the UK are certainly weakening economically, others may finally be overcoming longstanding challenges.

  5. UK supermarket Waring Abbott/Getty Images

    The UK’s Multilateral Trade Future

    With Brexit looming, the UK has no choice but to redesign its future trading relationships. As a major producer of sophisticated components, its long-term trade strategy should focus on gaining deep and unfettered access to integrated cross-border supply chains – and that means adopting a multilateral approach.

  6. The Year Ahead 2018

    The world’s leading thinkers and policymakers examine what’s come apart in the past year, and anticipate what will define the year ahead.

    Order now