The drug industry hit back on Thursday at a proposal to charge firms a levy to help fund development of new antibiotics and said the idea, set out in a high-level UK review of drug-resistant superbugs, would "undermine goodwill".

The government-commissioned review by former Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O'Neill suggested companies should be rewarded for developing a new antibiotic but face a surcharge if they decided not to invest in the area.

Trade associations representing British, European and international drug companies said in a joint statement that such a surcharge would be "punitive" and counter-productive.

"The potential imposition of a tax on just one segment of the life sciences sector to fix a supply-side issue will significantly undermine current goodwill, cooperation, and the large voluntary investment and initiatives that are already underway," they said.

"We need to be working towards incentives that support additional investment rather than punitive payments."

The world has seen very few new antibiotics in the past few decades, as industry has retreated from the field to focus on more profitable disease areas, although recently there has been some increase in investment, prompted by the superbug threat.

The industry bodies said pharmaceutical companies were currently working to develop 34 experimental antibiotics and infection-preventing vaccines.

A separate global association representing manufacturers of veterinary medicines also criticized elements of the O'Neill report, which included a call for big cuts in antibiotic use in farming, saying it was "negatively biased towards agriculture".

(Reporting by Ben Hirschler; Editing by Mark Potter)