Antibiotics is the most valuable drug class in human history. It’s done more to save lives than any other drug class. It’s incredibly powerful.
England’s chief medical officer has warned of a “post-antibiotic apocalypse” as she issued a call to action urging global leaders to address the growing threat of antibiotic resistance. Professor Dame Sally Davies said that if antibiotics lose their effectiveness it will spell “the end of modern medicine”. Without the drugs used to fight infections, common medical interventions such as caesarean sections, cancer treatments and hip replacements would become incredibly “risky”, she said. And transplant medicine would be a “thing of the past”, she added. “We really are facing, if we don’t take action now, a dreadful post-antibiotic apocalypse.”
Health experts have warned that resistance to antimicrobial drugs could cause a bigger threat to mankind than cancer. Around 700,000 people around the world die annually due to drug-resistant infections including tuberculosis (TB), HIV and malaria. It is estimated that 60,000 babies die each year due to drug-resistant infections. If no action is taken, it has been estimated that drug-resistant infections will kill 10 million people a year by 2050.
In September the World Health Organisation warned that antibiotics are “running out” as a report found a “serious lack” of new drugs in the development pipeline.
According to a 2014 report in Drug Discovery Today, courtesy of Washington University in St. Louis professor Michael Kinch, the general trend is for drug companies to withdraw from the antibiotic market completely, a situation that's poised to exacerbate the whole antibiotic crash in potentially very dangerous ways. As it stood then, antibiotics were leaving the marketplace at a rate twice that of new drugs entering it.
Drug companies aren't altruists because, after all, they're businesses, e.g. entities that exist to make money. And the big bucks aren't in antibiotics, at least compared to highly marketable drugs for quitting smoking or unsatisfactory erections. A company produces a drug designed to surpass the current level of antibiotic resistance and then can't sell much of it because doctors are justifiably concerned about that resistance. By the time said drug becomes a first-line treatment, it might as well be generic. When you hold a drug in reserve you're cutting the patent time a company has to recoup its development costs. Let us repeat that for emphasis - when a company comes up with a new superbug slayer, the medical community wants to keep it off the market as long as possible to delay toxic microorganisms developing resistance to it so there just isn’t enough profit soon enough for Big Pharma to incentivise R and D. The capitalist market itself fails society.