The new drugs available now to fight antibacterial resistance

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Since penicillin was discovered in the 1940’s, antibiotics have greatly reduced illness and death from infectious diseases. However, bacteria are becoming increasingly resistant to them and putting people at risk. According to the CDC, over 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are currently resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die as a direct result. In the face of this growing issue, the development of antibiotics hit a historic low in the 1990s and 2000’s but now seems to be easing.

This year there were 3 new antibiotics approved in the past year, two of the drugs Sivextro and Dalvance were approved for skin infections including MRSA so that is big. The final one was approved for urinary tract or gastrointestinal infections, including resistant infections to current antibiotics. Sivextro is available for oral administration while all three can be given as an injection. Two of the drugs are actually from the same company, Cubist Pharmaceuticals and this is the first time that has happened in the past century.

It comes down to economics. If an antibiotic is successful, you need to take it for 7 to 14 days where drugs for other diseases are taken for the rest of a person’s life. So it is easier to make back the money pharmaceutical companies invested over a lifetime rather than over a few weeks. It is estimated that the average company in the 1980s and 1990s lost several million dollars when all the costs were factored in while other drugs made them several hundred million or a billion dollars. A few years ago, the GAIN act was passed and gives incentives to the companies to create new drug products, the biggest of which is extending the patent life for five additional years. There are still some areas of concern though with two of the three antibiotics being in current drug categories and all three impacting systems in bacteria as current antibiotics. That means that it is less likely to stand up to resistance for as well as truly new novel targets but it is a bridge to get us there without catastrophic resistance induced pandemics.

You can help by not using antibiotics for viral infections, making sure that when you take your antibiotic you complete the course of therapy and kill the infection completely before you stop taking it, and using the least powerful antibiotics first and reserve the most powerful for resistant patients so we can maintain the effectiveness of these drugs for the longest period of time so newer and more effective antibiotics can be developed.

Michael White; Dept. Of Pharmacy Practice, UConn School Of Pharmacy