New ReAct report: Governments need to take more leadership to ensure global sustainable access to effective antibiotics


While the world is caught up in responding to the Covid19 pandemic, it has gone largely unnoticed that more than thirty years has passed since the last class of antibiotics was discovered. Meanwhile global consumption of antibiotics continues to increase. As a consequence, bacteria have developed resistance and are spreading as a silent, but steady, pandemic threatening to devastate healthcare and modern medicine as we know it.

The new report “Ensuring sustainable access to effective antibiotics for everyone, everywhere - How to address the global crisis in antibiotic Research and Development”, from ReAct - Action on Antibiotic Resistance Europé includes a comprehensive summary and critical evaluation of initiatives taken so far to address the deep crisis in antibiotic R&D. 

Lead author of the report and Deputy Director of ReAct Europe, Helle Aagaard said: 

We are coming off more than 30 years of failure by the pharmaceutical industry to discover new classes of antibiotics. Slight modifications of the traditional market-based R&D model for pharmaceuticals have been insufficient. Governments now have to start seriously considering the alternatives, and be willing to exercise far more public leadership in finding new ways to overcome the actual challenges”. 

Overcoming the key challenges

As antibiotic resistance will continue to develop as long as we depend on these medicines to treat bacterial infections, a continuous supply of new effective antibiotics is required. The report identifies five key challenges that must be solved in order to achieve sustainable access to effective antibiotics for all, and charts out options for governmental action in response to each of them. The five challenges are:

  1. Setting priorities that address the most significant and unmet global health needs
  2. Overcoming the scientific barriers in the early discovery and research phases
  3. Financing late-stage clinical R&D without relying on price and sales revenues of the end product
  4. Ensuring sustainable production, quality, procurement, and registration of novel antibiotics
  5. Ensuring sustainable access to new antibiotics in countries  

An opportunity to build back better

The Covid19 pandemic has exposed systemic and deeply unacceptable global health inequalities, where rich countries get access first, and poor countries are left depending on charity. In this regard, the overall broken model for antibiotic R&D offers an opportunity to build back better for the global community by creating a comprehensive end-to-end model which by design is intended to serve the health needs of rich and poor. ReAct therefore calls on governments to adopt a vision to achieve sustainable access to effective antibiotics for everyone, everywhere. 

“Ensuring sustainable access to effective antibiotics for everyone in need, implies that new antibiotics should be available, affordable and managed to preserve their effectiveness for as long as possible in all countries. That means that Low- and Middle-Income countries must have a seat at the table when rules are set and priorities are made to ensure that no one is left behind” said Prof. Otto Cars, Senior Advisor and Founder of ReAct.


ReAct Europe will be organizing an Expert Conversation Launch event open to the public on Wednesday the 14th of April at 2 pm CEST.  Experts from the WHO, the Global Research and Development Partnership, low-income country governments and others are invited to discuss the five challenges and the potential solutions laid out in the report. 

Register here 

Last modified: 2023-02-01