“Google for Doctors”: How the G20 and World Bank Can Help Tackle Antibiotic Resistance – Podcast with Lord Jim O’Neill

June 14, 2016

The economist who coined the term "BRICS" thinks he has a hot investing tip.

In this edition of the CGD podcast, Lord Jim O’Neill of Gatley, a minister in the UK Treasury, tells me that if it costs the world $40 billion over ten years to stop 10 million deaths and “stop the loss of $100 trillion of global GDP, that’s something like a two-and-a-half-thousand percent return.... That seems to me like a pretty good investment.”

The UK government-sponsored AMR Review, led by O’Neill, describes a burgeoning human tragedy wrought by growing antimicrobial resistance which, if unchecked, could see one person die every three seconds by 2050.

The report’s recommendations focus on developing new drugs and on reducing demand for antibiotics, which O’Neill says are currently dispensed “like candy.” He wants a UN agreement during the General Assembly to undertake a worldwide public awareness campaign. The report also calls for fast, effective, cheap diagnostic tools so that physicians can check if a patient really does need antibiotics.

“I like to call it 'Google for doctors,'” he says. “We live in a world where our mobile phones dominate everything we do and yet our doctors and clinicians make a really educated guess whether we need antibiotics or not.”

Of the ten million deaths a year by 2050 that his report projects without action to tackle AMR, he says “nearly one third of those will be because of tuberculosis, so having state-of-the-art diagnostics to deal with that [is] hugely important.”


How to Pay to Tackle AMR?

O’Neill wants G20 leaders, when they meet in China later this year, to make a financial commitment to encourage the development of new drugs and new diagnostic tools. This could be funded through a market entry rewards mechanism (prizes), or a system similar to Advance Market Commitments for vaccines, which CGD helped develop in 2005.

“This is something the G20 have to make some decision on and they have to make a significant commitment... and multinational financial institutions could play a role here. One thinks of the World Bank here and others.... Some kind of financial support, some kind of grant, some kind of incentive... why would you not consider that as a very sensible investment?”


CGD blog posts reflect the views of the authors, drawing on prior research and experience in their areas of expertise. CGD is a nonpartisan, independent organization and does not take institutional positions.