ABR is a Problem because we are not creating enough new antibiotics to deal with ever changing superbugs

The New England Journal of Medicine, in a 2010 study, found that “health care providers prescribed 258.0 million courses of antibiotics in 2010, or 833 prescriptions per 1000 persons”1. Over 80% of the population of the US was given a prescription for antibiotics in the year of 2010—there is no indication for a decrease in these numbers for following years. Moreover, this study found that an estimated 50% of these prescriptions were unnecessary. This overprescribing of antibiotics further strengthens the selective pressure on bacterial populations escalating the problem of antibiotic resistance or ABR. With an increase in ABR, new and alternative antibiotics must be employed to cure infections until improved methods are utilized that remedy the problem of ABR. However, the development of new antibiotics may see a bleak future.

Discovering and employing new antibiotics is slowing down. According to Brad Spellberg of the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, only 2 types of antibiotics were approved from 2008 to 2012 compared to the 16 approved from 1983 to 19872. The slowdown of antibiotic research and approval is attributed to three factors: scientific, economic and regulatory2. Spellberg explains, “Drug screens for new antibiotics tend to re-discover the same lead compounds over and over again”. Finding unique antibiotic solutions is now an arduous and also expensive process—the astronomical cost of developing and approving new antibiotics provides little incentive for companies to take part in.

The current regulatory system relevant to antibiotics put in place by the FDA also inhibits the speed and efficiency at which antibiotics can be approved. The FDA approves antibiotics based on “disease state one at a time”2. This causes “companies [to] spend $100 million for a phase III program and as a result capture as an indication only one slice of the pie.”2. The problematic structure of this regulatory system strongly contributes to the overall difficulty in developing new antibiotics.

With the increasing difficulty of developing antibiotics and the associated high cost, prospecting investors in this field have little incentive to pursue this venture. New alternatives to antibiotics must be found in order to fight disease for those in need, provide economic incentive for researchers and investors, and remedy the ever-increasing threat of ABR.

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