We are an over-medicated society. The rush to the urgent care clinic every time we have a runny nose has created a problem. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria have popped up in hospitals, and even the last line defense antibiotics struggle to put diseases in check.
Enter UK Prime Minister David Cameron. He’s a man on a mission to pushback against the threat of superbugs. Of course, he is a politician, so first things first. he has ordered a review on why so few new antibiotics are being created. You could save money on hiring a former Goldman chief economist for the job. Antibiotics are expensive to develop and aren’t profit leaders. You’re welcome.
So what type of world do people face without new antibiotics? Cameron stresses that it would send us back into the medical Dark Ages. Routine surgeries, cancer treatments and organ transplants would become impossible.
The main issue is the misuse and overuse of antibiotics. Viral infections are being given antibiotics, even though they have no clinical effect on the illness. One of the biggest superbugs is MRSA. It alone has accounted for tens of thousand of deaths in the U.S. and Europe. The number is exponentially higher is developing countries.
In a promising sign, drugmaker Roche has said it was going to re-enter the antibiotic field. This comes after a decade of only a few antibiotics entering the market. If you are a conspiracy type, this move could be worrisome if a major drugmaker is entering the ring again. It could be the problem is greater than governments let on.
In 1990, 20 companies had large R&D programs for antibiotics. Today, that number stands at a handful of pharmaceutical companies. The renewed push on both sides of the Atlantic should push drug companies back into the antibiotic market.
It may not have the glitz of cholesterol drugs or ED pills, but if companies want customers to reach the point of needing them, they may want to make sure a simple cold doesn’t kill them.