Copenhagen Denmark, antibiotics, GlaxoSmithKline, AstraZeneca, Orrin Hatch, MRSA
Experts around the globe are warning that the menace of antibiotic-resistant superbugs is a “ticking time-bomb.” A rise in the number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria is putting modern medicine at risk, they say.
For half a century, antibiotics have given human beings a powerful way to treat infections that once were life threatening. That golden era in medicine is threatened. Experts say, annually, hundreds of thousands of people around the globe, including in the most advanced countries, die from infections acquired in hospitals because of antibiotic-resistant microbes.
They say the issue is as important as climate change and should be tackled urgently. Professor Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England said recently, “We need to work with everyone to ensure the apocalyptic scenario of widespread antimicrobial resistance does not become a reality.
“This threat is arguably as important as climate change for the world,” she went on to add.
She warned that hospital care could revert back to the level 20th century if this issue is not dealt with urgently.
“Antimicrobial resistance poses a catastrophic threat,” said Davies. “If we don’t act now, any one of us could go into hospital in 20 years for minor surgery and die because of an ordinary infection that can’t be treated by antibiotics. And routine operations like hip replacements or organ transplants could be deadly because of the risk of infection.
“That’s why governments and organizations across the world, including the World Health Organization and G8, need to take this seriously.”
Reports say pharmaceutical companies, government officials, and medical experts are urgently mounting a push to speed up the approval of new antibiotics.
Dr. Janet Woodcock, the Food and Drug Administration’s head of drug evaluation and research, labeled the need for new antibiotics as a worsening global crisis.
Dr. Margaret Chan, Director General of the World Health Organization, in a 2012 keynote address at a Denmark conference to address the issue said, “Efforts to stimulate the development of new medical products are critically important for every country in the world. The spread of antimicrobial resistance is rendering more and more first-line treatments useless.
In a note of warning, she added, “some observers say we are moving back to the pre-antibiotic era. No. With few replacements in the pipeline, medicine is moving towards a post-antibiotic era in which many common infections will once again kill.
“Health care cannot afford a setback of this magnitude. We must recognize, and respond to the very serious threat of antimicrobial resistance.”
Experts say one of the obstacles that stands in the way of developing new drugs is that pharmaceutical companies traditionally make a choice of investing their resources into developing drugs with bigger payoffs than antibiotics.
“It has been progressively more difficult to usher a new anti-infective to market,” said Dr. Vance G. Fowler Jr., an infectious disease expert at Duke University.
Last year Congress passed legislation to gives producers five more years of market exclusivity for effective drugs. The measure also directed the Food and Drug Administration to review and approve new antibiotics.
In addition, this year, two senators, Michael F. Bennet, Democrat of Colorado, and Orrin Hatch, Republican of Utah, said they saw legislation as a way to circumvent the time it takes for the Food and Drug Administration to change its testing procedures.
Reports say that struggles to develop new antibiotics are being launched worldwide. In Europe, several big drug companies such as GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca recently joined a government and industry initiative to develop antibiotics that kill resistant strains of bacteria. As part of the project, companies are collaborating and sharing their resources and research data.
By Perviz Walji