Health care industry concerned about antibiotic-resistant “superbugs”

Health officials are warning of the rise of the “superbugs” — bacteria and other pathogens that cannot be killed by modern medicine.

But many pharmaceutical companies are resisting the call to develop effective antibiotics and instead are shifting their resources to other products.

Exhibit A is AstraZeneca, one of the major companies still working on developing antibiotics.

Its new chief executive, Pascal Soriot, said Monday the drug giant was restructuring its workforce and will focus on three therapy areas: cancer, cardiovascular and metabolism disorders, and respiratory and inflammatory diseases. This means “reduced spending on anti-infectives,” according to Reuters.

Pfizer, Roche, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Eli Lilly have all reduced or eliminated their antibiotic research efforts, while Merck & Co. and GlaxoSmithKline are still actively pursuing such medicines, Reuters added.

The reason businesses resist making new antibiotics is rational: The drugs are expensive to develop but are used briefly by most patients and are aimed at pathogens that eventually learn how to build up a resistance to them.

As a result, there have always been relatively few antibiotic products in development, and now — gauging by what is in the pipeline — “none of them really is going to be active against these bacteria in the near term,” said Dr. Gary A. Roselle, national director of the Infectious Diseases Service for the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system.

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Source – The Washington Times

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