Why it's fatal that pharmaceutical companies don't develop new antibiotics 2

Why it's fatal that pharmaceutical companies don't develop new antibiotics

The development of new antibacterial drugs is risky and not economically worth it. There are solutions – but the obstacles to implementation are big.


Lieselotte Hasselhoff

06/10/2019

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From 06.10.2019, 19:10


Bielefeld. Economically not worth it. Therefore, most major pharmaceutical companies no longer produce new antibiotics. These drugs are among the most important in the world to control bacterial infections. The demand should be high. It was not until 2016 that the International Pharmaceutical Association (IFPMA) established an "AMR Industry Alliance" to fight resistance: about 100 companies agreed to invest in antibiotic research. Today, according to the NDR survey, only four major pharmaceutical companies (MSD, GlaxoSmithKline, Otsuka and Roche's Genentech subsidiary) are developing new antibiotics. Why companies stop investing in antibiotic research harmful bacteria will become drug resistant Among other things, the German government advocates that antibiotics should not be taken more often than absolutely necessary, thereby reducing the volume of sales to businesses, and in addition, the development of new preparations involves the risk of failure of a large project – for example due to the active ingredient in During several test phases it turns out that they are incompatible. It is therefore unattractive for investors to invest in manufacturing companies. Incentives through higher prices Wolfgang Greiner, professor of health economics at the University of Bielefeld and a member of the expert council on health issues, proposes a solution to the problem of antibiotic prices. "Suppose you would say that a new backup antibiotic is ten times more expensive than older drugs, then the industry might be interesting." For certain drug groups, including antibiotics, the state sets so-called "fixed quantities." You determine how much money statutory health insurance companies must reimburse for the drug. Exception: A manufacturer can prove that his product is better – for example, with fewer side effects – than preparations already on the market. Greiner criticizes: "Although new antibiotics may not be better than old ones, resistance to their predecessors is developing, so successor products are a necessary replacement for them." Promising but less cost-effective approach to research Another approach is to look for new substances as the basis of antibacterial agents. Karsten Niehaus, a biologist at the Center for Biotechnology (CeBiTec) at the University of Bielefeld, cites as an example the project of one of his PhD students: "He is researching antimicrobial agents from plants." I hope it will be possible to develop an active substance against listeria. Listeria is a bacterium that occurs in dairy products and can be dangerous especially for pregnant women. "We have been working on the symbiosis of plants and bacteria for over 30 years," Niehaus explains. "Such plants can slow down the undisturbed growth of bacteria through certain amino acid chains." His Niehaus colleagues say nothing about his doctoral student project: "They would laugh at me that the search for new substances is very difficult and expensive." State-funded research institutions are increasingly important: "Public institutions are less corsets than large companies," he says. "They are more flexible, sometimes trying something that ends up in a dead end." Criticism of the German Research Foundation will only be granted in some areas by only ten percent or less of the research applications submitted. "The search for antibiotics from plants, that is, naturally antimicrobial products, would not promote the German Research Foundation (DFG)," says Niehaus. "They would say: This is not a real research question. It lacks a clear hypothesis to be tested." However, Niehaus believes this kind of thinking is wrong: "If one in ten substances is a hit, it is extremely important to develop new drugs."