Press release

George Osborne has to tackle poverty to address antibiotic resistance

Published on 15 April 2016

Ahead of George Osborne’s speech to the IMF in Washington, where he will call for immediate and global action to address the growing threat of resistance to antibiotics, the Institute of Development Studies appeals for these efforts to be underpinned with a commitment to universal access to effective antibiotics. 

George Osborne

The British Chancellor will tell a panel of experts that by 2050, 10 million people a year could die globally as a result– which is more than currently die from cancer each year. He will call for “international action to tackle the growing problem of antibiotics becoming powerless against common infections”.

Doctor Gerry Bloom, Institute of Development Studies, welcomes George Osborne’s speech and highlights that the UK Government is playing a very effective leadership role in mobilising a major global effort to tackle growing resistance to antibiotics. He urges however “that it is essential that investments in the development of new drugs and in efforts to reduce excessive use of antibiotics are complemented by investments in measures to ensure universal access to effective antibiotic treatment of common infections”.

Highly unequal access to effective antibiotics will undermine any commitments by governments of low and middle income countries. Doctor Bloom argues that: “It will be very difficult to build global support for an effort to control antibiotic use and withhold access to certain drugs, while very many people do not have access to antibiotics when they need them. In many countries, poor people obtain these drugs in unregulated markets. They often take a partial course and the products may be sub-standard. This increases the risk of resistance”. 

“This risk is increased because people are exposed to infections through poor sanitation and they are more likely to fall ill because their immunity is compromised by malnutrition and chronic ill health. There are very high levels of anti-microbial resistance (AMR) amongst this population. Large movements of people and dense transportation networks mean that resistance organisms can move quickly around the world.”

The Chancellor will call for the world’s governments and industry leaders to work together in radical new ways. IDS reiterates its own commitment to contribute to this global effort, and urges that any promises or initiatives should aim at a just, as well as sustainable use of antibiotics.


For more information or to arrange interviews with Doctor Bloom, contact Vivienne Benson

Notes to Editors

  1. The UK has already implemented two of George Osborne’s initial recommendations: to increase government funding for early stage research by establishing the AMR fund with China, also in collaboration with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation; and the £265m/$375m Fleming Fund, to help build capabilities in low-income settings to monitor the development and spread of drug resistance. 
  2. Professor Gerry Bloom is a physician and health economist. His special interest is the management of health system transition in the context of rapid social and economic change. Areas of particular focus include the changing roles of government, health system innovations processes of institutional development.
  3. The Institute of Development Studies (IDS) is a leading global institution for development research, teaching and learning, and impact and communications, based at the University of Sussex.  Our vision is a world in which poverty does not exist, social justice prevails and economic growth is focused on improving human wellbeing. We believe that research knowledge can drive the change that must happen in order for this vision to be realised.

Key contacts

Vivienne Benson

Communications and Impact Manager

+44 (0)1273 915653


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