Report: Lack of antibiotics has dire consequences

April 18, 2013 at 9:04 AM
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WASHINGTON, April 18 (UPI) -- The current pipeline of antibiotics is fragile and the dwindling roster of antibiotic developers has dire consequences for public health, U.S. experts say.

Dr. Henry Chambers, chairman of Infectious Diseases Society of America's Antimicrobial Resistance Committee, said at this urgent time of greatest need, the number of pharmaceutical companies investing in antibiotic research and development plummeted.

In a report, published online in the Clinical Infectious Diseases, IDSA identified only seven new drugs in development for the treatment of infections caused by multi-drug-resistant gram-negative bacilli bacteria -- superbugs.

Pharmaceutical companies typically put research and development resources into the development of chronic disease drugs -- including those to treat high cholesterol, diabetes and cancer -- which provide significant financial rewards, partly because they are intended to be taken for long periods of time, Chambers said.

Antibiotics, which are intended to be taken for short period of time, can't compete, Chambers said. The results are playing out in real time, with a smaller pharmaceutical company, Polymedix, which has one of the seven drugs in development, filing for bankruptcy protection in early April 2013, the report said.

Moreover, the policy update reports only four large multi-national companies remain in antibiotic research and development. One of these, AstraZeneca, which has two of the seven drugs in development, plans to reduce its future investments in antibiotics, Pascal Soriot, it's chief executive officer said recently.

The IDSA first warned of the looming antibiotic apocalypse with its 2004 report, "Bad Bugs, No Drugs."

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