May 6, 2019

Companies ditch antibiotics as drug-resistant infections increase

Cabinet full of pills

Photo: Education Images/UIG via Getty Images

As the threat of drug-resistant infections rises globally, small and large drug companies are giving up on antibiotics because they don't turn enough profit, Bloomberg reports.

Details: One particularly striking example is an antibiotic developed by Achaogen targeting a superbug that appears in intensive care units, carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae.

  • While the antibiotic was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in June, Achaogen filed for bankruptcy in April. The drug had made less than $1 million in sales in its first 6 months on the market.
  • Experts fear this story will repeat itself with other biotechs if something isn't done.

By the numbers: Only 5 of 16 antibiotics introduced between 2000 and 2015 made $100 million or more annually in U.S. sales.

  • Antibiotics bring in much less money than drugs for other types of diseases, like cancer.
  • And doctors explicitly try not to prescribe antibiotics unless they're needed.

The bottom line: While public health experts have ideas about how to fix the incentives around developing antibiotics, for now things aren't looking good.

Go deeper: Drug resistance could kill 10M people per year by 2050, experts say

Go deeper