— Our defenses are getting weaker

Drug-resistant infections pose a growing threat to public health. We’re not prepared to meet it.

That’s because the development pipeline of new antibiotics to fend off superbugs has fallen off. Superbugs are strains of bacteria and fungi that have developed immunity to the medicines used to kill them. Antimicrobials are critical tools in our fight against these pathogens.

The problem is that we’re not developing nearly enough of them and many of the medicines we currently have are no longer effective. It’s imperative that we act now — and fast — to bolster our deteriorating defenses against these often serious and life-threatening infections.

The Dwindling Pipeline

There are only 64 antibacterial therapeutics currently in clinical development. That’s compared to 1,300 treatments in development for various cancers. Over one-third of antibacterial drug candidates target just two bacteria: Clostridioides difficile and Mycobacterium tuberculosis. That leaves only 44 drugs to target all other pathogenic bacteria.

In other words, the antibacterial pipeline is grievously small. And it’s shrinking compared to previous decades. In the last 35 years, just one antibacterial with a novel way to target bacteria has been approved. Comparatively, 18 new antibacterials with novel targets were approved by the FDA between 1940 and 1990.

Meanwhile, superbugs continue to grow stronger. New research estimates they claimed 1.27 million lives in 2019 — more than twice the estimated number of annual deaths just 5 years prior.

Put simply, we’re in the midst of a pipeline paradox. Why is our discovery and development of new antibacterials declining while new pathogens are on the rise?

The problem is not the lack of success in developing new treatments. In the past decade, antibacterial drugs in clinical trials were more than twice as likely to move from early human testing to FDA approval versus drugs for all other diseases.

Instead, the problem is a fundamentally unique, misaligned market for antimicrobials that makes innovating unviable for developers. This has real impacts for physicians and patients.

Read the full piece at MedPage Today here.