Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

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

Health + Wellness
Antibiotic Crisis Coming as Superbugs Gain Strength and Drug Companies Go Bankrupt
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.

With restaurants and supermarkets becoming less viable options during the pandemic, there has been a growth in demand and supply of local food. Baker County Tourism Travel Baker County / Flickr

By Robin Scher

Beyond the questions surrounding the availability, effectiveness and safety of a vaccine, the COVID-19 pandemic has led us to question where our food is coming from and whether we will have enough.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Tearing through the crowded streets of Philadelphia, an electric car and a gas-powered car sought to win a heated race. One that mimicked how cars are actually used. The cars had to stop at stoplights, wait for pedestrians to cross the street, and swerve in and out of the hundreds of horse-drawn buggies. That's right, horse-drawn buggies. Because this race took place in 1908. It wanted to settle once and for all which car was the superior urban vehicle. Although the gas-powered car was more powerful, the electric car was more versatile. As the cars passed over the finish line, the defeat was stunning. The 1908 Studebaker electric car won by 10 minutes. If in 1908, the electric car was clearly the better form of transportation, why don't we drive them now? Today, I'm going to answer that question by diving into the history of electric cars and what I discovered may surprise you.

Read More Show Less

Trending

A technician inspects a bitcoin mining operation at Bitfarms in Saint Hyacinthe, Quebec on March 19, 2018. LARS HAGBERG / AFP via Getty Images

As bitcoin's fortunes and prominence rise, so do concerns about its environmental impact.

Read More Show Less
OR-93 traveled hundreds of miles from Oregon to California. Austin Smith Jr. / Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs / California Department of Fish and Wildlife

An Oregon-born wolf named OR-93 has sparked conservation hopes with a historic journey into California.

Read More Show Less
A plume of exhaust extends from the Mitchell Power Station, a coal-fired power plant built along the Monongahela River, 20 miles southwest of Pittsburgh, on Sept. 24, 2013 in New Eagle, Pennsylvania. The plant, owned by FirstEnergy, was retired the following month. Jeff Swensen / Getty Images

By David Drake and Jeffrey York

The Research Brief is a short take about interesting academic work.

The Big Idea

People often point to plunging natural gas prices as the reason U.S. coal-fired power plants have been shutting down at a faster pace in recent years. However, new research shows two other forces had a much larger effect: federal regulation and a well-funded activist campaign that launched in 2011 with the goal of ending coal power.

Read More Show Less