Quantcast

Antibiotic Crisis Coming as Superbugs Gain Strength and Drug Companies Go Bankrupt

Health + Wellness
A superbug resistant to all known antibiotics is spreading undetected through hospital wards across the world, scientists in Australia warned on Sept. 3, 2018. WILLIAM WEST / AFP via Getty Images

Countries around the world are seeing a mounting threat from antibiotic resistance. After decades of overprescribing antibiotics and overusing them in factory farming, rivers are polluted with antibiotics and complications from drug-resistant infections are projected to cost $100 trillion by 2050, according to Scientific American.


The Centers for Disease Control released a report last month that said more than 2.8 million people in the U.S. experience an infection from antibiotic resistant bacteria each year, leading to 35,000 deaths. The report also pointed out that this is a global crisis, not just a domestic problem.

In fact, this spring, the United Nations declared this problem an urgent global crisis in need of immediate action.

Just when the fight against superbugs needs to ramp up, drug companies are either going bankrupt or refusing to invest in research, according to The New York Times. Achaogen and Aradigm, two antibiotic start-ups, both went bankrupt. Pharmaceutical giants like Novartis and Allergan have stopped investing in antibiotic research. And one of the largest developers of antibiotics, Melinta Therapeutics, recently said it was running out of money.

The prospect of losing money has investors fleeing the sector, just when more money is needed, according to The New York Times.

"This is a crisis that should alarm everyone," said Dr. Helen Boucher, an infectious disease specialist at Tufts Medical Center and a member of the Presidential Advisory Council on Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, to The New York Times.

"Antibiotic resistance has long been a problem, but the threats we face are real, immediate, and demand immediate action. Antibiotic resistance threatens modern medicine — our ability to safely perform routine surgeries and complicated organ transplants, as well as chemotherapy, all rely on the ability to prevent and treat infections," said Dr. Jesse Jacob from the Emory Antibiotic Resistance Center at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta to Medical News Today.

The Trump administration has worsened the problem by cutting the budges of nationwide, hospital-based programs researching the issue. It has also ignored the World Health Organization's suggestions on reducing antibiotic use in livestock, as NBC News reported.

Companies that have spent billions to find a solution to the increasing strength of germs that have developed a resistance to common antibiotics have not found a market to recoup their investment into research. Most antibiotics are used for short durations, unlike profitable medicines for chronic conditions, and many hospitals are unwilling to pay the high price for new therapies, according to The New York Times.

The story of Achaogen provides a cautionary tale. After spending 15 years and a billion dollars to win FDA approval for a drug that cures hard-to-treat urinary tract infections, the World Health Organization added the new drug to its list of essential new medicines. But, by then, Achaogen was out of money. It fired all of its scientists and declared bankruptcy, as The New York Times reported.

"If this doesn't get fixed in the next six to 12 months, the last of the Mohicans will go broke and investors won't return to the market for another decade or two," said Chen Yu, a health care venture capitalist who has invested in the field, to The New York Times.

"We need research to find new drugs but can't rely on a pipeline of new drugs alone to solve this problem, since resistance eventually happens to all drugs," said Dr. Jacob to Medical News Today.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

An aerial view of a neighborhood destroyed by the Camp Fire on Nov. 15, 2018 in Paradise, Calif. Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

Respecting scientists has never been a priority for the Trump Administration. Now, a new investigation from The Guardian revealed that Department of the Interior political appointees sought to play up carbon emissions from California's wildfires while hiding emissions from fossil fuels as a way to encourage more logging in the national forests controlled by the Interior department.

Read More
Slowing deforestation, planting more trees, and cutting emissions of non-carbon dioxide greenhouse gases like methane could cut another 0.5 degrees C or more off global warming by 2100. South_agency / E+ / Getty Images

By Dana Nuccitelli

Killer hurricanes, devastating wildfires, melting glaciers, and sunny-day flooding in more and more coastal areas around the world have birthed a fatalistic view cleverly dubbed by Mary Annaïse Heglar of the Natural Resources Defense Council as "de-nihilism." One manifestation: An increasing number of people appear to have grown doubtful about the possibility of staving-off climate disaster. However, a new interactive tool from a climate think tank and MIT Sloan shows that humanity could still meet the goals of the Paris agreement and limit global warming.

Read More
Sponsored
A baby burrowing owl perched outside its burrow on Marco Island, Florida. LagunaticPhoto / iStock / Getty Images Plus

Burrowing owls, which make their homes in small holes in the ground, are having a rough time in Florida. That's why Marco Island on the Gulf Coast passed a resolution to pay residents $250 to start an owl burrow in their front yard, as the Marco Eagle reported.

Read More
Amazon and other tech employees participate in the Global Climate Strike on Sept. 20, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. Amazon Employees for Climate Justice continue to protest today. Karen Ducey / Getty Images

Hundreds of Amazon workers publicly criticized the company's climate policies Sunday, showing open defiance of the company following its threats earlier this month to fire workers who speak out on climate change.

Read More
Locusts swarm from ground vegetation as people approach at Lerata village, near Archers Post in Samburu county, approximately 186 miles north of Nairobi, Kenya on Jan. 22. "Ravenous swarms" of desert locusts in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia threaten to ravage the entire East Africa subregion, the UN warned on Jan. 20. TONY KARUMBA / AFP / Getty Images

East Africa is facing its worst locust infestation in decades, and the climate crisis is partly to blame.

Read More