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Sun Sep 15, 2019, 05:29 AM

Big Pharma nixes new drugs despite impending 'antibiotic apocalypse'

https://www.dw.com/en/big-pharma-nixes-new-drugs-despite-impending-antibiotic-apocalypse/a-50432213

Big Pharma nixes new drugs despite impending 'antibiotic apocalypse'

Even though doctors around the world are warning about the regular discovery of new superbugs, and saying that indiscriminate use of "last resort" antibiotics is threatening a major global health catastrophe, almost every major pharmaceutical company in the world has given up on research into new antibiotics.

According to an in-depth report from German public broadcaster NDR this week, the reason for this lack of preparation for the impending crisis is simple: antibiotics simply aren't profitable.

Antibiotics are only used for a few days once in a while, and are being prescribed less as doctors become more aware of the dangers of over-prescription. Instead, drug companies are focusing on lucrative medications for chronic conditions like high cholesterol, arthritis, epilepsy, and cancer.

Johnson & Johnson, Sanofi, Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Novartis, Otsuka and many others have all gutted their antibiotic development teams and moved those budgets elsewhere. This is despite a 2016 pledge signed by over 100 companies, including Johnson & Johnson and Novartis, saying they would help prevent the next epidemic by investing in ways to combat the rise of antibiotic-resistant "superbugs."
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Two major related factors are driving the rise in drug-resistant infections. One is the over-prescription of antibiotics a study in the British Medical Journal last January found that one in four antibiotic prescriptions in the United States was unnecessary, a proportion that was the same in the UK until a 2015 information campaign to raise awareness among doctors and patients.

Another issue is the indiscriminate use of "last resort" antibiotics, often by farmers trying to avoid problems with livestock.

A report this week in the British publication New Statesman revealed that Chinese farmers are giving their cows colistin, known as the "last hope" antibiotic, to stave off future infections despite warnings that doing so is putting human lives in danger. The report details how this practice has led colistin-resistant bacteria to travel from cows and now to chickens, which means it is mobile and can transfer to humans.
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