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How is Pharma Tackling Antibiotic Resistance? Public Health Watch Report

In early 2016, more than 80 drug companies signed a declaration in support of innovations designed to curb resistance. To date, several companies—some of them upstarts—have engaged in the battle. Therapix Biosciences, for example, which specializes in cannabinoid-based treatments, is currently exploring the development of a compound combining a cannabinoid with an existing antibacterial agent. And, MotifBio, is in the process of developing a novel antibiotic, Iclaprim, for acute bacterial skin and skin structure infections. The drug has a unique mechanism of action, according to the company, which may make it more effective than existing antibiotics against resistant infections. Trials are ongoing.

And, Iterum Therapeutics is developing sulopenem, an oral and IV antibiotic to treat drug-resistant gram-negative infections. Phase 3 trials are expected to begin next year.
Finally, on October 23, 2017, the FDA granted Cosmo Pharmaceuticals, manufacturers of Aemcolo (Rifamycin SV MMX) for travelers’ diarrhea, Qualified Infectious Disease Product (QIDP) and Fast Track designations for the drug. Phase 3 trials of the drug have already been completed.

Will these innovations be enough to prevent the “antibiotic apocalypse?” Probably not, which is why the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) has advocated for governments effectively incentivizing pharmaceutical companies to encourage the continued development of novel therapeutics.

“Although there are already public-private partnerships to develop new antibiotics, these are mostly ad hoc and focus on making drugs for very specific diseases and treatments,” said UNCTAD legal officer Christoph Spennemann. “While this is a step in the right direction, these partnerships are addressing very specific diseases, not the broader issue of global resistance. For this, you need government commitment to provide the industry—or the product-development partnership in charge of making the antibiotics—with a constant stream of funding. The lack of public funding for the phase after a new drug is approved—the ‘stewardship’ phase—may explain why fewer and fewer companies continue to invest in the old class of antibiotics, those already on the market.”

We know money “makes the world go ’round.” We’ll see if it stops it from ending.
Brian P. Dunleavy is a medical writer and editor based in New York. His work has appeared in numerous healthcare-related publications. He is the former editor of Infectious Disease Special Edition.
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