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

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    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.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.