Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Patients and Patents

The number of new antibiotics being developed has fallen sharply since 2000 and drugmakers need to do much more to tackle the rise of superbugs, according to the Netherlands-based Access to Medicine Foundation who assessed 30 of the world’s biggest drugmakers, including pharma companies, biotech firms and generic drugmakers, and produced the first independent report on the industry’s efforts to address drug-resistant infections. New antibiotics are urgently needed but there is little incentive for drugmakers to develop them as they will be tightly controlled once they reach the market to limit the risk of resistance emerging.

Overprescription of antibiotics, along with their overuse in animals, has caused growing drug resistance in humans with serious health implications – leading to the rise of superbugs such as MRSA that cannot be treated with existing antibiotics. In Europe, an estimated 25,000 people a year die from antibiotic-resistant bacteria. In the US, at least 2m illnesses and 23,000 deaths a year can be attributed to antibiotic resistance, according to the foundation’s report.

The report notes that fungal infections now cause more deaths than malaria or tuberculosis. There is resistance to almost all fungi, including candida, a yeast infection that has been spreading in the US. Only one in five infectious disease drugs that enter clinical testing are generally approved for patients. Data from the World Health Organisation shows there are just 51 drugs in clinical testing in priority areas.
The number of new antibacterial drugs approved in the US dropped from 33 between 1985 and 1999 to 13 between 2000 and 2014.

Drug companies, after all, aren't altruists because they're drug companies, e.g. entities that exist to make money. And the big bucks aren't in antibiotics, at least compared to highly marketable drugs.   Developing and testing a new drug takes an average of 11 years, he says, while the drug's patent expires after 20, leaving just nine years for the drug manufacturer to recoup its investment and turn a satisfactory profit. Because of increasing drug resistance, new antibiotics, in particular, are often held in reserve by doctors and used only as a drug of last resort. So, it's something of a catch-22. 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 eating into the patent time a company has to recoup its development costs

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