Drug Companies Choosing not to Research New Antibiotics

   A primary concern in the effort to address antibiotic resistant superbugs is the importance of developing new drugs to combat emerging pathogens that fail to respond to traditional therapies. At a time when the research and development into new antibiotics is a necessary strategy for combating resistant strains of bacteria, leading drug companies have actually cut research into new drugs.

    There are varied reasons cited for the decline, including difficulty finding and developing drugs that are effective enough yet able to be tolerated by humans, low market prices for antibiotics and a demanding and costly regulatory environment in which to bring new drugs to market.  However, there is a growing consensus that profit motives lie at the root of the problem. In an article in the Chicago Tribune earlier this year, Paul Stoffels, the head of pharmaceuticals at Johnson and Johnson admitted as much when he stated, "In cancer, people pay $30,000, $50,000 or $80,000 (per patient) for a drug, but for an antibiotic it is likely to be only a few hundred dollars" to explain one reason why his company is reducing new antibiotic development.

    In response, the Federal Government has begun to publicly fund new antibiotic development and earlier this year gave GlaxoSmithKline $200 million for research into new antibiotics. Additionally, Congress has created an FDA task force to examine the issues surrounding new antibiotic development and to advise on changing regulations to make the development model more effective.

While we do face an uncertain future as new pathogens emerge and challenge our existing strategies to mitigate them, it is important that we not only embrace the efforts of the government as it attempts to expand research and better legislate the problem, but that we also create dialogue at the local and citizen level. This blog and our companion website are excellent ways for you to join the discussion and add your ideas to the debate. We will only win the battle against superbugs and the reduced efficacy of antibiotics if we all do out best to become a part of the solution we wish to see.

So what do you think about Government efforts to increase the development of new antibiotics? Are they doing enough? Too much? We invite you to add your comments below and have your valuable input heard!