Fears grow as drug firms quit antibiotic research Yahoo! India
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Fears grow as drug firms quit antibiotic research
LONDON/NEW YORK (Reuters) - With "superbugs" stalking hospitals and old killers such as tuberculosis re-emerging, the world badly needs more powerful News Photos
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Yet the pipeline of new treatments is drying up as drug firms -- citing poor financial returns -- focus instead on chronic conditions, such as high cholesterol, where Photo Highlight medicines are taken for years rather than curing patients in one or two weeks.
The shrinking of the medical armoury is a groand has sparked a debate between regulators and pharmaceutical companies over ways to kick-start investment. "The relative lack of research on anti-microbials is a matter of concern and it does relate partly to the financial returns on their use," said Richard Laing, an expert on medicine policy at the World Health Organisation in Geneva. "There is clearly a potential risk, due to growing drug resistance, that there won't be any effective anti-microbials available in the future." In the battle between man and microbe, multi-drug resistant bacteria -- or superbugs -- are gaining the upper hand. MRSA (methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus) strains once confined to hospitals are now found in the wider community and some infections even shrug Highlight
off vancomycin, traditionally the antibiotic of last resort. The Infectious Diseases Society of America, representing more than 7,500 physicians and scientists, said in a report last month that a "perfect storm" was brewing in infectious diseases. J.P. Dutta ka 'Kasoor' Only nine new antibiotics have been approved since 1998, of which just two had a novel mechanism of action -- and the annual reports of major drug companies list a mere five new antibiotics in development out of more than 400 agents in total. Fears grow as drug firms quit antibiotic research More Cricket
Some firms like Eli Lilly and Co and Roche Holding AG have pulled out of the antibiotic arena, while many others have severely curtailed investment. Click here for news
The industry says the economics simply do not stack up. "Companies won't develop any drug now unless they think it can make peak annual sales of $400 million to $500 million, so they're giving up on antibiotics," said industry veteran Francis Tally, who used to run Wyeth's (then American Home Products') Lederle antibiotic unit a decade ago. Steve Waugh named Today, he is chief scientific officer of Cubist Pharmaceuticals Inc, which last year Australian of the Year became the first biotech firm to launch a new antibiotic, Cubicin. While many pharmaceuticals show double-digit sales growth, the antibiotic market is flat and could decline with the arrival of cheap generic copies of two big sellers, GlaxoSmithKline Plc's Augmentin and Bayer AG's Cipro. Steve Waugh awarded Australian of the Year! For the few new antibiotics that have made it to market -- such as Pfizer Inc's News, Photos, more. Zyvox -- the financial returns have been meagre at a time when the regulatory
"The regulatory requirements have risen to a level that has meant companies can Communities
no longer see the investment would be justified," said Trevor Jones, director ? Yahoo! Chat
general of the Association of the British Pharmaceuticals Industry, representing some of Europe's biggest drug makers. ? Yahoo! Groups
The fate of Aventis SA's new antibiotic Ketek has highlighted the problem for many pharmaceutical executives. To satisfy regulators, the Franco-German company Directory
had to conduct a huge -- and costly -- 24,000-patient study. ? News and Media
"That scared a lot of drug companies because it still has not been approved in the ? Magazines
United States," said Tally. "The other thing that is scaring off big pharma is that if ? Newspapers
you do have a drug against resistant strains of bacteria, hospitals restrict use of it. They hold it in reserve, which cuts down on sales." ? Television
Audio and Video
? BBC World Service: In a bid to revive antibiotic development, drug companies are lobbying both the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Evaluation Agency for "sweeteners" that could make investment in new antibiotics more ? NPR World News
? The World
? United Nations
Options include relaxing some of the clinical trial rules, in recognition of that fact that last-resort treatments are unlikely to be used on more than a small number of patients. ? World Radio
Another idea favoured by industry is extending the patent life of certain medicines, on condition profits are re-invested in R&D. But at a time when the pharmaceutical Related Links
industry is under fire over patents on AIDS drugs and stands accused of fuelling runaway healthcare costs, that could be a hard one to sell. ? BBC World Service
? CNN Interactive: Fears grow as drug firms quit antibiotic research Email this article to your friend - View most popular
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