News / Health

Race On to Develop New Antibiotics

Carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria
Carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae bacteria

Multimedia

Vidushi Sinha

Drug companies are struggling to develop new and more effective antibiotics to combat the growing worldwide threat from drug-resistant germs.  In this second of her 2-part report on "Battling Superbugs," we examine the looming public health danger, and the challenges drug companies face in bringing new antibiotics to market.

Medical experts watching the rising tide of drug-resistant bacteria have begun sounding the alarms.  They say life-threatening infections could jeopardize surgeries, cancer treatment, organ transplants, and many other specialized medical procedures.

And some warn that if new anti-microbial drugs are not developed within the next few years, billions of people will be left nearly defenseless against some lethal bacterial infections.

Such concerns have prompted the Infectious Disease Society of America (IDSA) to call for the development of 10 new antibiotic drugs by the year 2020, an initiative the group calls "10 by 20."

“The 10 by 20 initiative is IDSA’s challenge to the global community to come together to bring the right group of people together. People in government, industry, academia, policy makers to figure out the right combination of incentives that both will motivate companies who want to develop new antibiotics and also to find new ways to manage these products over time," said Robert Guidos, Vice President of IDSA.

Experts say that the hour of reckoning has arrived, and that if efforts to combat the problem are not launched now, dangerous diseases eradicated long ago could make a comeback.

Thomas Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, shared that concern recently with Capitol Hill lawmakers. "If we don't improve our response to the public health problem of antibiotic resistance, we may enter a post- antibiotic world in which we will have few or no clinical interventions for some infections," he said.

Recent studies have shown that there are very few new antibiotics in the development pipeline that would work against lethal infections born out of bacterial resistance such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, commonly known as MRSA, or carbapenem-resistant Klebsiella pneumoniae, or CRKP for short.

About 2 million MRSA infections have been reported in U.S. hospitals each year since 2002.

Barry Eisenstein is Vice President of Cubist, an American drug company with a new anti-MRSA drug in development, as well as many others.

He says neither the federal regulatory environment nor the pharmaceutical market are favorable for companies trying to develop antibiotics. “The expense and difficulty of doing these...trials for the most important diseases have become very hard and very difficult to the point that many of the big companies have actually gotten out of the field of antibiotic development because they don’t feel that it’s worth the investment," he said.

Some drug company executives contend that financial returns on investments made in a new antibiotic are significantly lower than for other new drugs reaching the market.

“Think about the cholesterol-lowering drug - it’s not uncommon for many of the statins to be bringing in $5 - 10 or more billions per year. For an antibiotic to sell at a half a billion is considered a blockbuster, almost unheard of," he said.

Eisenstein says the push to make "a perfect drug" that is both safe and effective beyond a shadow of doubt has considerably slowed the pace of new antibiotics reaching the market.

To get companies back in the antibiotics game, Eisenstein says two things have to be done.

“The regulatory risk - to decrease the great hurdles to get approval and increase the likelihood of being able to get a drug approved in a shorter period of time, at a higher proportion of probability. And then on the economic side, to enable the companies to have greater incentives to overcome what we call market failure," he said.

Drug companies note that the newest antibiotics, typically, are likely to be prescribed more carefully and used more sparingly - meaning slower sales and smaller profits for the companies that develop them.

Neverthless, public health experts say one new antibiotic has already been approved for use in the United States, and they are hopeful that the ambitious goal  of developing nine more by 2020 can be achieved.

You May Like

WHO: Anti-Ebola Efforts Should Focus on West Africa

Official says WHO is 'reasonably confident' countries bordering those hardest hit by the Ebola outbreak are not seeing the virus crossing their borders More

South Sudan Crisis Threatens Development

Economic costs and lost development opportunities in South Sudan have erased what little progress the country has made since independence in 2011 More

Ukrainian PM Warns: Russia May Try to Disrupt Sunday Poll

Arseniy Yatsenyuk orders full security mobilization for parliamentary election to prevent ‘terrorist acts’ from being carried out More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid