Imagine a world where the smallest cut could kill you because doctors were powerless to treat an infection, and routine operations were too dangerous to perform. Sounds far-fetched, and yet it’s not as far as you might imagine.
In the UK alone, scientists estimate around 5,000 people die a year because of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and antibiotic resistance is estimated to cost the NHS alone £1bn annually. Both those numbers could rise. That’s because despite a big rise in people asking for antibiotics, and doctors prescribing them, we haven’t had any new classes of these drugs in 25 years. And as pharmaceutical companies hunt for more lucrative drugs, they’re less focused on finding new ones. UK prime minister David Cameron has made dire public warnings this year that unless global action is taken, we could be thrown back into “the Dark Ages” of medicine.
But the problem isn’t just finding new bug-killing drugs, it’s people’s behaviour. When they don’t take a full course of medicine, or take them for the wrong things, the hardiest bacteria - those genetically resistant to antibiotics - survive, and spread.
It’s a vicious cycle: Drug resistant bacteria force scientists to find new drugs to kill them, but because of non-adherence new superbugs appear, forcing us, once again, to find new antibiotics to fight them.
But if we could break that cycle by tackling the root causes - non-adherence and incorrect usage - we’d save thousands of lives, and billions of pounds a year.
From Homer to Homer Simpson, and fables to cartoons, the best stories are memorable, entertaining, and emotionally engaging. They’ve been a powerful tool for passing on important information throughout history.
IDEO London has created the Antibotics concept to bring the potency of narrative to these pressing medical issues through pills, packaging and story, something we’ve called the Story Pill Platform.
Using the Antibotics story, we want to educate and motivate children who have to take antibiotics to complete the entire course. But it’s also for parents, helping raise understanding about the proper use of these drugs.
We’ve taken advantage of new technology to make that even more powerful: bridging the physical pill, and the digital space for an engaging, child-friendly experience.