New incentives needed to develop antibiotics to fight superbugs

Fri May 27, 2016 7:52pm EDT
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By Bill Berkrot

NEW YORK May 27 (Reuters) - Drugmakers are renewing efforts to develop medicines to fight emerging antibiotic-resistant bacteria, but creating new classes of drugs on the scale needed is unlikely to happen without new financial incentives to make the effort worth the investment, companies and industry experts said.

American military researchers on Thursday announced the first U.S. case of a patient with an infection found to be resistant to the antibiotic colistin, the drug often held in reserve for when all else fails.

That put a spotlight on the urgent need for new medicines that can combat what health officials have called "nightmare bacteria."

Drugmakers on Friday acknowledged that in the absence of a new way of compensating them, it simply does not make economic sense to pour serious resources into work on new antibiotics.

"The return on investment based on the current commercial model is not really commensurate with the amount of effort you have to put into it," said David Payne, who heads GlaxoSmithKline PLC's antibiotics drug group.

Other pharmaceutical companies expressed a similar sentiment.

In January, some 80 drugmakers and diagnostics companies, including Pfizer Inc, Merck & Co, Johnson & Johnson and Glaxo, signed a declaration calling for cooperation among governments and companies to create incentives to revitalize research and development of new antibiotics.

It proposed a new business model in which profit would not be linked to higher sales. For example, governments and health organizations could offer lump-sum rewards for development of a successful new antibiotic. A British government panel suggested this month that drug companies be offered up to $1.5 billion for successful development of a new antibiotic.   Continued...