UK Hopes Subscription Payment Model Will Drive Innovation in Antibiotics

Drugmakers would receive an upfront payment in exchange for access to antibiotics.

Resistance to even the most powerful antibiotics continues to increase and is creating significant health and economic risks. According to a recent World Health Organization report, approximately 700,000 deaths per year globally can be attributed to drug-resistant diseases. The report also suggests that antimicrobial resistance (AMR) could cause economic harm similar to the 2008–2009 global financial crisis.


The UK government is hoping to encourage more research and development in the field of antibiotics by changing its payment model for these drugs. Rather than continue to pay based on the volume of antibiotics sold to the country’s National Health Service (NHS), the government will pay an upfront payment for access to antibiotics. Such a subscription model provides an incentive for investment in antibiotics R&D, according to the NHS.


The health agency is asking drug companies to identify the best candidates to be included in an initial test of the program. It also plans to share the results of the test with other health agencies around the world, because AMR is a global problem that must be addressed by all countries, according to the UK’s Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock.


In the United States, Louisiana and Washington have established similar subscription programs with Gilead and AbbVie, respectively, for access to hepatitis C drugs.


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is also trying to encourage the development of new antibiotics with various regulatory and marketing benefits, but the low cost of antibiotics and limited use of new treatments –– to prevent the development of AMR –– have continued to inhibit interest . According to Merck & Co. CEO Ken Frazier, a move from volume-based reimbursement is needed

Cynthia A. Challener, Ph.D.

Dr. Challener is an established industry editor and technical writing expert in the areas of chemistry and pharmaceuticals. She writes for various corporations and associations, as well as marketing agencies and research organizations, including That’s Nice and Nice Insight.