Drugmakers pledge to clean up antibiotic factories, curb overuse

(Reuters) - Thirteen leading drugmakers promised on Tuesday to clean up pollution from factories making antibiotics and take steps to curb overuse of the medicines as part of a drive to fight the rise of drug-resistant superbugs.

The industry announcement coincides with a high-level meeting on antimicrobial resistance as part of the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Companies that have signed up to the scheme include leaders in both branded and generic drug production, including Pfizer, Merck, Novartis, GlaxoSmithKline and Allergan, as well as Indian drugmakers Cipla and Wockhardt.

The group will work with independent experts to set new factory standards and review supply chains to ensure antibiotic waste does not enter waterways, where it can lead to the breeding of superbugs.

Efforts to prevent overuse of antibiotics will involve a review of promotional activities and the implementation, by 2020, of concrete measures such as the removal of incentives to sell the drugs in larger volumes.

Though the problem of drug-resistant bacteria has been a feature of medicine since the discovery of penicillin in 1928, it has grown in recent years with the emergence of infections resistant to multiple drugs, such as MRSA.

Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by David Goodman