UK to test "subscription-style" payment model in effort to spur development of new antibiotics

The NHS will test a "subscription-style" payment model for antibiotics as part of efforts by the UK government to incentivise companies to develop new medicines to tackle drug-resistant infections. Under the proposed scheme, the Department of Health and Social Care said Tuesday that drugmakers will be paid upfront for access to their therapies based on their usefulness to the NHS, rather than by the volumes sold.

The plan is designed to give companies with innovative antibiotics, which are often stored in reserve, compensation for their development efforts. "Tackling superbugs needs global leadership," remarked Health Secretary Matt Hancock, adding the NHS "is in a unique position to take a global lead in testing new payment models."

The trial will be led by the NHS and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, with the parties currently asking companies to identify products to be considered for the initial phase of the test. The Department of Health and Social Care noted that the work will be evaluated from the start and findings will be shared with the rest of the world so that other healthcare systems can test similar models.

Commenting on the news, Sheuli Porkess, executive director of research, medical and innovation at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, said the plan "hopefully brings us closer to fixing the problems that have hampered investment in antibiotics research for so long."

The announcement comes after the government in January unveiled its strategy to tackle antimicrobial resistance, with plans outlined at the time to de-link the payments made to companies from the volumes of antibiotics sold.

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