Skip to main content

Antimicrobials: Evaluation and Purchase

Volume 716: debated on Monday 20 June 2022

The ability of bacteria—and other types of pathogen—to develop and propagate resistance to the available therapeutic drugs and medicines, such as antibiotics, used to treat them is a significant and growing threat. Alongside extensive efforts to tackle this threat, as set out in the Government’s five-year National Action Plan, we have sought to reduce the need for antibiotics. This is being achieved through both effective infection prevention and control, and through careful stewardship of the antibiotics that we have at our disposal, by reducing inappropriate prescribing. It is also essential that we incentivise the development—by pharmaceutical companies—of new antimicrobials, which has historically been challenging. To address this challenge, we committed to develop and test a new purchasing model for antimicrobials that de-links payments for antibiotics from the volumes used.

As a result, NHS England and Improvement (NHSEI), the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) launched a joint project in July 2019 to test a “subscription-style” payment for two antibiotics, basing the annual payment on a NICE-led assessment of the value of the medicines, rather than on the volumes of drugs used. On 12 April 2022, NICE published guidance estimating the value of the two antibiotics to the NHS. This guidance informed negotiations between NHSEI and the two companies to agree payment levels in the “subscription-style” contracts.

I would like to inform the House that the contracts between NHSEI and the two pharmaceutical companies have now been signed. Payments to the companies for their antibiotics, Cefiderocol—manufactured by Shionogi —and Ceftazidime with Avibactum—manufactured by Pfizer—will start on 1 July 2022.

This world-leading project represents an important development in our approach to incentivising innovation in antimicrobial drugs and in our efforts to tackle antimicrobial resistance (AMR). We will continue to build on this work to develop routine arrangements for the evaluation and purchase of new antimicrobials as they are developed. I will be writing to my counterparts in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to formally invite them to participate in these next steps, to ensure that the project can be adapted and scaled across the UK.

Maintaining momentum on our international advocacy and action on market incentives is crucial. We hope other countries will offer similar incentives in their own domestic markets, so that collectively we can achieve a meaningful incentive for global investment in antimicrobials. This project is representative of our leading role in this area, aligning with the Government’s vision for a Global Britain.