WATCH: Chief Medical Officer spells out why the drugs don’t work

10 Jun 2015

Chief Medical Officer for England and University of Manchester alumna, Professor Dame Sally Davies spelled out a stark warning about the dangers of drug resistance among bacteria at the annual Cockcroft Rutherford lecture last night (9 June).

Dame Sally Davies delivers the lecture
Dame Sally Davies delivers the lecture

Professor Davies was appointed as the first female Chief Medical Officer in 2010, a role which sees her act as the government’s principal medical adviser and the professional head of all directors of public health in local government.

Since taking on the role she has led global action to fight the trend of infections becoming resistant to antibiotics, a trend which in the UK is estimated to kill around 10m people a year globally by 2050.

Speaking to the 800-strong audience she said: “We are in danger of losing modern medicine...

“Antimicrobial resistance is on the government’s risk register along with terrorism, flu pandemics and climate change.  It’s an equivalent threat.”

In her address, she highlighted the complex use of antibiotics in meat production, where antibiotics can be used to compensate for poor hygiene and overuse among the human population.

She also addressed the problem of no new classes of antibiotics marketed that were developed after 1987.  “It is a market issue,” she said. “We expect antibiotics to be cheap yet we only take them on average once a year, so there’s no profit to be made in developing new ones.”

One such initiative has seen the Prime Minister commission University of Manchester honorary professor, Jim O’Neill to look at the reasons for market failure and propose ways that Governments globally could stimulate R&D.

Watch below for an exclusive interview with Dame Sally in which she talks about the DevoManc health initiative and anti-microbial resistance:

As part of her role, Professor Davies has sought to address the problem, creating new strategies in the UK and with the World Health Organization and lobbying government to fund more research into the issue. 

Dame Sally concluded her speech by encouraging everyone to play their part: “How many people can put their hands on their hearts and say their infection prevention is perfect?

“This is an important issue because when it comes to antibiotics, what we’ve got is what we’ve got.”

See here for a Storify account of the event by members of the audience who tweeted on the night.

Dame Sally has written a blog post about this issue for Policy@Manchester. Click here to read it.

Notes for editors

Dame Sally gained her medical degree in 1972 from Manchester Medical School and was previously a consultant haematologist and professor of haemoglobinopathies at Imperial College London. She developed the National Institute for Health Research and is a member of the World Health Organization Global Advisory Committee on Health Research.

The Cockcroft Rutherford lecture is an annual event for alumni and donors to The University of Manchester in honour of two of the University’s 25 Nobel Prize winners, Sir John Cockcroft and Lord Ernest Rutherford. Previous speakers have included Professors Michael Wood, Brian Cox, Sir Andre Geim and, Astronomer Royal, Lord Martin Rees. 

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