New AMR Paper Explains Our Life-or-Death Battle with Superbugs and What We Need to Do to Win

The silent pandemic of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is an under-recognized global health crisis that threatens the foundations of modern medicine.

New York, NEW YORK (February 17, 2022)—The Global Coalition on Aging (GCOA) today released a startling new paper, Wonder Drugs vs. Superbugs: The 21st Century Battle to Save 10 Million Lives a Year, which clearly lays out the global threat posed by rising drug resistance, widely known as antimicrobial resistance or AMR, and accompanying lack of effective new drugs. The paper, perhaps the first of its kind, asks us to imagine a world in which commonly used medicines no longer protect us from disease and suggests four steps for leaders in government, business, and across society to help avert this crisis. The paper was released alongside a series of regional infographics and Calls to Action on AMR for the United States, the European Union, and Japan. The paper and the infographic series were created with support from Pfizer.

Wonder Drugs vs. Superbugs follows the release last month of ground-breaking data on the global burden of AMR in The Lancet showing that AMR itself claimed 1.27 million lives in 2019 alone and contributed to nearly 5 million deaths that year. Beyond the loss of life, the new GCOA paper explains the stakes – a threat to the foundations of our healthcare systems, and even to the very premise of human longevity – if AMR continues unaddressed at its current pace, already accelerated by widespread infection and antibiotic use in the COVID-19 pandemic.

“AMR and the impact of our lack of new antibiotics pose an urgent and growing threat to the world that could soon eclipse that of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mike Hodin, CEO of the Global Coalition on Aging. “But those of us who know this have not done a good job at communicating what AMR is or what it means for us, our parents, and our children. This paper aims to correct this by clearly explaining the risk from AMR and what we, collectively and individually, can do about it,” said Hodin.

Germs evolve and many will develop into superbugs capable of evading the drugs we have developed to combat them. Once-defeated diseases are reemerging, and the rise of drug-resistant infections threatens a century of medical innovation. Worldwide, drug-resistant infections, which already killed 1.27 million people each year pre-COVID, are on track to claim an estimated 10 million lives each year by 2050.

As AMR grows, people with once-treatable conditions will be at greater risk of infection and even death. Relatively common surgeries, including cesarean sections, joint replacements, and organ transplants will become deadly, and many lives will be lost due to drug-resistant infections, including sepsis. Notably, the GCOA report was released alongside Sepsis Survivor Week.

The GCOA paper aims to highlight and elucidate the challenges of this silent and growing pandemic and calls on leaders to take four steps to bring needed attention to and action on AMR:

  • Reinvent and reimagine AMR to capture public attention
  • Broaden the audience to spur advocacy for new drugs
  • Establish right-size incentives to drive the discovery and development of new drugs
  • Adapt the COVID-19 model of collaboration for medical innovation


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