New ReAct Report: When the Drugs Don’t Work – Antibiotic Resistance as a Global Development Problem

11 March 2019

Working antibiotics have given us a huge boost in quality of life over the last nine decades, but their importance and value is overlooked. Antibiotics play a crucial role in many more areas of life than most people imagine. This new report by ReAct and Dag Hammarskjöld Foundation looks at the state of global development when the drugs don’t work and a post-antibiotic era sets in. The report shows how antibiotic resistance is a global development problem by highlighting existing data and people’s experiences.

Keeping antibiotics effective for treating infectious diseases is essential for the work on achieving some or all of the Sustainable Development Goals. At the same time, achieving the goals is important to reduce antibiotic resistance. Antibiotic resistance should therefore be considered a sustainable development issue. In When the Drugs Don’t Work: Antibiotic as a Global Development Problem you find a more detailed analysis of the negative impact of antibiotic resistance on global and national efforts to:

  • eradicate poverty (SDG 1)
  • spur economic growth (SDG 8 and 12)
  • reduce inequality (SDG 5 and 10)
  • improve global public health (SDG 3)
  • reduce hunger (SDG 2), and
  • protect the environment (SDG 6, 14 and 15).

Work on antibiotic resistance is essential for reaching the Sustainable Development Goals

Antibiotic resistance would seriously jeopardize the achievement of several of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but is not yet seen as a global development problem. While recognized as a challenge for sustainable development, it is for instance not in the targets or indicators of the SDGs. This is one of the reasons why work on antibiotic resistance is still too little in practice and the topic is viewed as purely a health or agriculture issue.

Otto Cars, founder of ReAct

Otto Cars, founder of ReAct

Otto Cars, founder of ReAct says:

“This report clearly shows that antibiotic resistance must be addressed as a global development issue. Antibiotics must be seen as a potentially non-renewable resource which must be distributed equally across the globe.

There are no quick fixes – antibiotic resistance is a systems failure and thus all sectors need to contribute to a change and jointly securing that antibiotics remain effective. To limit the effects of antibiotic resistance, we have to let go of antibiotic resistance as a health issue only and start seeing it as a critical global development issue we all take ownership over.”

ReAct’s new paper to stimulate discussions

The new paper When the drugs don’t work: Antimicrobial Resistance as a Development Problem presents concrete examples of the underlying and complex aspects of antibiotic resistance and its impacts across different Sustainable Development Goals. It is intended to inform and stimulate discussions on how to further advance the implementation of:

  • the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
  • the Global Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance
  • the National Action Plans on Antimicrobial Resistance, as well as
  • work within all sectors that affect and are affected by antibiotic resistance.

Antibiotic resistance is not a problem of the future, it already has major consequences for the lives and livelihoods of people around the globe. Because of its urgency, antibiotic resistance should receive special attention on the national and global levels as a systems failure both in healthcare and agriculture.To limit the effects of antibiotic resistance, it must be considered a critical sustainable development issue. Looking into the close future there are many actions that can be taken by different actors at different levels to mitigate the effects of antibiotic resistance.

Click to see clickable infographic from the report. People living in poverty are not only more vulnerable to antibiotic resistance, but are also less able to prevent or treat antibiotic-resistant infections.

Title: When the Drugs Don’t Work: Antibiotic Resistance as a Global Development Problem

Authors: Maarten van der Heijden, Andreas Sandgren, Maria Pränting, Matti Karvanen, Helle Aagaard, Anna Zorzet, Mengying Ren and Otto Cars (ReAct)

Published: 28 February 2019