To fight antibiotic resistance, the independent report found that companies are developing new drugs, discouraging their overselling, limiting their run-off into wastewater, and tracking the spread of superbugs.
Antibiotics are becoming ineffective at an alarming rate due to our misuse in healthcare, animals, and crops. Antibiotic resistance is responsible for 700,000 deaths each year, which is expected to continue rising – overtaking cancer by 2050. To slow this trend, we must start to use these drugs more carefully. The Antimicrobial Resistance Benchmark, published by the Access to Medicine Foundation, has found that although companies are taking steps to improve the situation, there remains room for improvement.
The report looked at a selection of the most active pharma, biotech, and manufacturing companies to see how they’re responding to the threat of drug-resistant infections. In particular, the report assessed the R&D efforts to develop new antibiotics, policies for responsible manufacturing, and approaches to ensure accessibility and their proper use.
Jayasree Iyer, Executive Director of the Access to Medicine Foundation, summed up the situation: “If we don‘t use antibiotics in the right doses or for the right bugs, we risk giving bacteria a chance to adapt and strengthen their defences, which will make it harder to kill them the next time.” Therefore, we need pharma and biotech companies to help us find a solution or we could be sent back in time with treatable infections becoming life-threatening again.
Of the large research-based pharma companies included in the Benchmark, GSK and Johnson & Johnson (J&J) were selected as the leaders. In particular, GSK has the biggest antibiotic R&D pipeline, including for high priority pathogens, and has removed the incentive for sales reps to oversell antibiotics by separating bonuses from the volume of antibiotic sold. Meanwhile, J&J is working on a breakthrough for tuberculosis – a disease with 10.4 million new cases each year.
With biotechs renowned for their innovative capacity, many see these companies as our biggest hope for new and effective antibiotics. The report assessed 12 biotechs, identifying US company Entasis as the current leader in the field. It was followed by Polyphor, Summit – which recently licensed its antibiotic ridinilazole in Latin America – and Tetraphase all in second place. CEO of Polyphor, Giacomo Di Nepi said: “We are honored to be selected by the Access to Medicine Foundation as one of the leading companies… Our novel antibiotics are the first new class medicines against Gram-negative pathogens in 50 years.”
These are some of the best companies active in the antibiotics field but the grass isn’t so green when we delve a little deeper. Of the 28 antibiotics in late-stage development for high priority pathogens, just 2 will be made accessible and used wisely if they reach the market. In addition, less than 50% of the companies in the Benchmark track drug resistance patterns and only 8 limit antibiotic run-off of into wastewater. These statistics highlight that there remains a long way to go before the industry is operating in a way that sustainably develops antibiotics.
Images – Kateryna Kon / shutterstock.com; Willy Barton / shutterstock.com
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