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

Photogallery Oxfam: Ebola Could Be 'Disaster of Our Generation'

Meanwhile, Fidel Castro, the former leader of Cuba, says the Caribbean island nation will 'gladly cooperate' with the US in the fight against Ebola in West Africa More

Multimedia Kobani Fighting Sends 400,000 Refugees to Turkey

Refugees receive help from Turkish authorities and individuals, but say much more is needed More

India’s Ruling Nationalist Party Makes Gains in Regional Elections

Bharatiya Janata Party’s huge margin over its rivals puts it on course to form governments in the northern Haryana and western Maharashtra states 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.
Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fighti
X
Zana Omer
October 18, 2014 6:37 PM
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 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 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.
Video

Video Syrian Defector Leaks Shocking Photos of Torture Victims

Shocking photographs purporting to show Syrian torture victims are on display at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington. The museum says the graphic images are among thousands of photographs recently smuggled out of Syria by a military policeman-turned-defector. As VOA reporter Julie Taboh reports, the museum says the photos provide further evidence of atrocities committed by the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad against its own people.
Video

Video Drought-Stricken California Considers Upgrading Water System

A three-year drought in California is causing a water shortage that is being felt on farms and cities throughout the state. As VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports, water experts, consumers and farmers say California needs to make changes to cope with an uncertain future.
Video

Video TechShop Puts High-tech Dreams Within Reach

Square, a business app and card reader, makes it possible to do credit card transactions through cell phones. But what made Square possible? VOA’s Adrianna Zhang and Enming Liu have the answer.
Video

Video Church for Atheists Goes Global

Atheists, by definition, do not believe in God. So they should have no need of a church. But two years ago, a pair of British stand-up comedians decided to create one. Sanderson Jones and Pippa Evans told the BBC they envisioned “something like church but without God". Their “Sunday Assembly” movement has grown from a single congregation in London to dozens of churches around the world. Reporter Mike Osborne visited with the members of a Sunday Assembly that now meets regularly in Nashville.
Video

Video Robot Locates Unexploded Underwater Mines

Many educators believe that hands-on experience is the best way to learn. Proving that the method works is a project developed by a group of students at the Stevens Institute of Technology, in Hoboken, New Jersey. They rose up to a challenge posted by the U.S. Department of Defense and successfully designed and built an underwater robot for locating submerged unexploded ordnance. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's JFK Hospital Reopens After Temporary Ebola Exposure

JFK Hospital is Liberia’s largest and one of its oldest medical facilities. The hospital had to close temporarily following the deaths of two leading doctors from Ebola. It is now getting back on its feet, with the maternity ward being the first section to reopen. Benno Muchler has more for VOA News from Monrovia.
Video

Video Hong Kong Protests Expose Generation Gap

Most of the tens of thousands of protesters in Hong Kong are students seeking democracy. Idealistic youths say while the older generation worries about the present, they are fighting for the territory's future. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Hong Kong.
Video

Video Liberians Living in US Struggle From Afar as Ebola Ravages Homeland

More than 8,000 Liberians live in New York City, more than in any other city outside of Liberia itself. As VOA’s Bernard Shusman reports, with the Ebola virus ravaging their homeland, there is no peace of mind for these New Yorkers.
Video

Video Kurds See War-Ravaged Kobani As Political, Emotional Heartland

Intense fighting is continuing between Islamic State militants -- also known as ISIS or ISIL -- and Kurdish forces around the Syrian town of Kobani, on the Turkish border. The U.S. said it carried out at least nine airstrikes against Islamic State positions Friday. Meanwhile the U.N. has warned that hundreds of civilians would be massacred if the town falls to the militants. Henry Ridgwell looks at the strategic significance of the city.

All About America

AppleAndroid