As pharma abandons the antibiotic market patients are at risk

SUMMARY: According to Pew Internet “Despite antibiotics’ vital role in cancer care, companies have abandoned their development in favor of more profitable drugs. A pull strategy is needed with financial incentives to repair the broken market for antibiotics and make it worthwhile for the pharma industry to bring promising drugs to market.

Drug resistance is a silent threat that could end up killing as many as 10m people in 2050. That would put it on a par with the number of people lost to cancer every year and mark a sharp rise from the current estimated death toll of 700,000 a year, according to a 2018 study.

Pew Internet reminds us all that, above all, the pharma industry is a business. They say that most drugmakers have exited the market because there is no money to be made while there is a lot of profit in new cancer drugs. Of the 18 antibiotics approved in the past decade, the makers of seven have either gone bankrupt or their investors have lost most of their money.

The pharma industry is warning of the consequences of inaction. “If we do not address the lack of a sustainable market where investments in antibiotics research and development get a fair return, by getting a proper valuation of new antibiotics, our society and our economies will suffer,” says Thomas Cueni, head of the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations.

Financial Times

Push-pull action will be needed if the battle against antimicrobial resistance is to succeed. The pull has to come from financial incentives to repair the broken market for antibiotics and make it worthwhile for the pharmaceutical industry to bring promising drugs to market.

A push could be the government(s) paying pharma to develop new antibiotics or paying for their patent. My guess is a mixture of both push and pull is needed.

Every once in a while I like to think that the pharma industry is committed to helping people but then my associate, who was an SVP at a top ten pharma company, said “only when there is money to be made”.

Many in pharma are talking about how proud they are that their companies developed COVID vaccines but they forget that there are huge financial incentives to develop these products.

Steve Jobs didn’t care about making money for Apple when he was CEO. He really saw his products as a way to help people manage information overload. The pharma industry has helped many of us live better lives, but as one of the most profitable industries globally, they need to use some of this profits to help develop new antibiotics, and Wall Street be damned!