G7 Summit

Meeting of G7 health ministers

Limiting the use of antibiotics worldwide

Disease does not stop at borders any more than resistant bacteria. The key topics at the meeting of G7 health ministers in Berlin were thus joint measures to tackle antimicrobial resistance and the lessons learned from the Ebola epidemic.

Group photo of the ministers of health of the seven leading industrialised countries Federal Health Minister Hermann Gröhe hosted the meeting of G7 health ministers in Berlin Source: picture alliance / dpa

"This sets a strong sign for a global health policy," summed up Federal Health Minister Hermann Gröhe following the meeting of G7 health ministers. "Only joint international efforts can effectively protect people, in Germany too, from multidrug-resistant bacteria and transnational epidemics. That is why it is good that we G7 health ministers are now pooling our forces to forge ahead in the fight against global health threats," he said at the close of the two-day consultations.

Acting together to fight antimicrobial resistance

The G7 health ministers agreed that antibiotics should only be given for therapeutic purposes following individual diagnosis. In future, antibiotics are to be prescription drugs everywhere. This will help limit the use of antibiotics both in human and in veterinary medicine. The ministers also agreed to put in place a global network of antibiotic experts and to foster research into and the licensing of new antibiotics.

Federal Health Minister Hermann Gröhe sees the worsening problem of antimicrobial resistance as a "dramatic and insidious danger". "700,000 people die every year as a result of resistant bacteria," said Hermann Gröhe. The costs of antimicrobial resistance in the OECD are thought to be of the order of 1.5 billion euros a year. By 2050 this figure could rise to a total of 2.9 trillion US dollars, if no action is taken to counter the trend, he warned.

At the Schloss Elmau summit on 8 June, the G7 leaders decided to draw up and implement national action plans to tackle antimicrobial resistance. The G7 agrees that these must be based on the "One Health" approach, since resistance adversely affects both animals and humans, as the same antibiotics are used for both. The German government is already implementing its German Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy (DART).

Fighting disease, improving vaccination coverage

The G7 want to act together to fight poverty-related and neglected tropical diseases. At Schloss Elmau the heads of state and government of the G7 states agreed to step up research and preventive work so as to eradicate these diseases by 2020. More than 1.4 billion people suffer worldwide, and many lives are lost every year as a result of these diseases.

It is no accident that the G7 ministers of science met parallel to the health ministers in Berlin, explained Federal Research Minister Johanna Wanka. In the field of health research there is close consultation and collaboration.

One point on the agenda of the G7 science ministers was thus how to improve the health situation in developing countries. The ministers decided to extend the G7’s research into the entire group of neglected, poverty-related infectious diseases. The group embraces more than 25 infectious diseases, including malaria, HIV and tuberculosis, as well as diarrhoeal diseases, trypanosomiasis or African sleeping sickness, and dengue fever.

Although a lot of research has already been conducted, said Johanna Wanka, what is now needed is an analysis of precisely what has already been researched and where there are gaps. In future the ministers intend to coordinate their efforts to promote research.

Supporting health systems

The Ebola epidemic effectively demonstrated that only properly functioning health systems can rapidly identify and effectively fight health risks. Health systems on the ground must then be strengthened. The G7 has pledged its support in this.

Germany will help train staff in other countries, to enable them to manage health emergencies. A rapid response team consisting of epidemiologists and laboratory experts will also be established, which is to provide support with diagnosis and disease control on the ground at the first sign of an outbreak. The programme is to be launched in 2016 with initial funding of four million euros, and is to run for five years.

Germany put three health issues on the agenda of its G7 Presidency: What lessons can be learned from the Ebola epidemic? How can we fight poverty-related tropical diseases? How can we stem worsening antimicrobial resistance? The G7 states are the USA, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Japan, Canada and Germany.

Friday, 09 October 2015

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Meeting of G7 science ministers