Doctors are sounding the alarm about a possible drug-resistant health crisis in the future after a number of antibiotic manufacturers have gone bankrupt, reports The New York Times. The timing comes as more and more bacteria are growing resistant to traditional antibiotics, and there is a greater need than ever for companies to innovate against future superbugs.
“This is a crisis that should alarm everyone,” said Dr. Helen Boucher, an infectious disease specialist at Tufts Medical Center.
Two antibiotic startups, Achaogen and Aradigm, closed their doors in the past few months, and one of the biggest developers of antibiotic drugs, Melinta Therapeutics, also admitted that it was suffering from a cash flow problem and nearing insolvency. The company’s stock price dropped by 45 percent as a result of the announcement.
Similarly, other big pharma companies, like Novartis and Allergan, have closed their antibiotics focused operations. Today, there are just three major pharmaceutical companies in the process of developing new antibiotic drugs. In the 1980s, that number was six times as much, with 18 companies focused on development.
The reason is diminishing financial returns on antibiotic drugs. Fewer doctors are willing to prescribe antibiotics meaning less revenue for companies, but research and development costs as much as ever. A new antibiotic can cost as much as $2.6 billion to develop.
“The science is hard, really hard,” said Dr. David Shlaes, a former vice president at Wyeth Pharmaceuticals. “And reducing the number of people who work on it by abandoning antibiotic R & D is not going to get us anywhere.”
Fortunately, lawmakers are taking note, and there has been some talk of passing legislation to help reimburse hospitals and give other financial incentives to antibiotic-centered companies.
Meanwhile, the threat is already having a massive impact on the United States. In a report released last month by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, drug-resistant diseases kill around 35,000 people each year and are responsible for the illnesses of an additional 2.8 million. That fatality sum is more than the total number of deaths of those suffering from skin cancer and leukemia combined (via Cancer.org).
“If this doesn’t get fixed in the next six to 12 months, the last of the Mohicans will go broke and investors won’t return to the market for another decade or two,” warned Chen Yu, a health care venture capitalist.
As previously reported by The Inquisitr, a case of Candida Auris was confirmed in Georgia this past November, meaning the illness has spread to 14 states in the country. The fungal infection is one of five antibiotic-resistant superbugs that have been deemed an “urgent threat” to Americans by the CDC. It has also called the disease a “serious global threat.”