Volume 94 Issue 4 | p. 8 | News of The Week
Issue Date: January 25, 2016 | Web Date: January 20, 2016

Pharma Industry Declares War On Superbugs

Health: Drug and diagnostics companies call on governments to work with them against drug-resistant infections
Department: Business
News Channels: Biological SCENE
Keywords: antibiotics, drug resistance, bacteria, infections, drug R&D
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BAD ACTORS
Graphic renditions of Clostridium difficile (blue), Pseudomonas aeruginosa (purple), Neisseria gonorrhoeae (orange), Acinetobacter (pink), and Enterobacteriaceae (yellow).
Credit: CDC/C&EN
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BAD ACTORS
Graphic renditions of Clostridium difficile (blue), Pseudomonas aeruginosa (purple), Neisseria gonorrhoeae (orange), Acinetobacter (pink), and Enterobacteriaceae (yellow).
Credit: CDC/C&EN

Using the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, as their stage, 85 drug, biotech, and diagnostics companies and nine industry associations declared their intent this week to combat antimicrobial resistance. The group called for comprehensive action against drug-resistant infections.

Without an effective global effort, drug resistance could claim 10 million lives each year by 2050, according to the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, an initiative supported by the U.K. government and the Wellcome Trust. The review is hosting the industry declaration on its website and will deliver its own report this summer.

For now, industry is calling on governments to “go beyond existing statements of intent and take concrete action, in collaboration with companies.”

To conserve antibiotics and reduce the occurrence of resistance, the group hopes for greater uptake of diagnostics for better prescribing. It wants to see “new and alternative market structures,” including funding to create markets and more favorable pricing. And it seeks incentives for investing in antibiotic R&D. For their part, companies say they will support appropriate use, R&D collaborations, and affordable access.

Only about 40 antibiotics are in development, and many don’t target urgent or drug-resistant threats. “That is not particularly encouraging given the needs,” says Elizabeth Jungman, director for public health at the Pew Charitable Trusts, which runs its own Antibiotic Resistance Project.

Jungman sees “complicated technical barriers to really rejuvenating the pipeline.” Another challenge is that only five of roughly 30 companies with antibiotics in development rank among the top 50 drug firms, she points out. More than 80% of the products in development come from small companies rather than the large firms that used to dominate the field,

Although the industry’s declaration speaks to major economic and scientific barriers, it doesn’t address the regulatory ones, Jungman adds. Overall, though, she’s encouraged. “The Davos declaration is a promising step,” she says, in showing recognition of the issues and a new focus on stewardship.

The declaration is open to new signatories and will be updated every two years to reflect developments around antimicrobial resistance.

 
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