Multibillion-dollar pharma levy proposed in superbugs battle

Financial Times:

Pharmaceutical companies may be charged a multibillion-dollar levy to pay for the development of antibiotics that can overcome drug-resistant superbugs under proposals from a UK review.

Jim O’Neill, the UK Treasury minister and former Goldman Sachs economist who led the review, said there was a “strong case” for drugmakers to pay for new anti-infective drugs that market forces have failed to deliver.

He urged a “play or pay” scheme under which pharma companies would be offered a “market entry reward” of up to $1.3bn for producing an effective new antibiotic, paid in large part by a surcharge on other drugmakers.

“For those pharma companies prepared to embark on the very complex and challenging and sometimes costly process of developing new antibiotics, they would be either exempt or get their money back,” said Lord O’Neill. “The money could be found from a small surcharge on the rest of the industry that chooses not to play.”

This is an interesting idea but misses the fundamental point that much antibiotic use is in effect pollution.  Its use needs to be taxed as otherwise the users aren’t bearing the full costs of production.