What role does antimicrobial stewardship play in tackling antimicrobial resistance?

It’s about ensuring that we only use antibiotics when necessary. It involves educating patients upfront as to when they should expect antibiotics to work – antibiotics don’t work against any viruses. Sometimes patients expect to be prescribed antibiotics or feel like the only way to shake a cold is with antibiotics. We need to ensure that we use less and only when we need them – giving the right antibiotic to the right patient. There are already many initiatives on-going throughout the health service to address AMR. For example, work is being done on ‘point of care’ testing and modern technologies are used by doctors or healthcare professionals to analyse a germ and what antibiotic might best work. We would also welcome large-scale informatics that can map out where germs are becoming resistant to certain antibiotics in different areas as it isn’t the same throughout the world or within communities.

What is the role of collaboration and partnership in addressing AMR?

No one party can fix this. It requires a collective action from various stakeholders. We need strong government policy all the way through from academic, industry, veterinary, environmental sciences to public health - we all need to address AMR together. At MSD, we believe we have an opportunity and a responsibility to align with anti-microbial stewardship objectives. We are proud of the fact that we have been looking at antibiotics for the last 70 years and we’re still investing very heavily in antimicrobials. From an industry point of view, we need to change the business model around how antibiotics are developing. The emphasis should be on the value of a new antibiotic and its usage, to incentivise more companies to invest their resources in developing new antibiotics.

What needs to take place across all sectors, from an Irish policy perspective?

The focus should be on patient outcomes and what the overall stewardship objectives are for antibiotics – essentially, protecting the future health of patients. Rapid diagnostics, investing money in ‘point of care testing’ for patients and enabling access to the newest technologies is key for helping healthcare professionals identify the germ and prescribe the right antibiotic. We need to incentivise the research and development of antibiotics particularly in risky early stage research. From an MSD perspective, we want to work with all stakeholder groups to ensure access to new antibiotics for patients most in need.