While resistance may be reducing the effectiveness of our medicine chest, we have another force to fear: economics. Many drugs still effective against parasitic diseases are either no longer available, no longer manufactured or in danger of being pulled from the market simply because they are not economically viable, say researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at a presentation during the annual meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene.
"Parasites are a very common causes of disease in the world but because there is no market for antiparasitic drugs, drug companies are discontinuing production," says Clinton White of the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.
By the phrase "no market" Dr. White does not mean that parasites do not cause signficant disease, but that these diseases are most commonly found in developing countries that do not have the money to effectively support production of these drugs. In addition, many drugs that are available overseas are used to treat infections that are only found occasionally in the United States making them prohibitively expensive to continue domestic production despite their necessity for a small population of Americans. Dr. White and his colleague Anne Moore from CDC first began looking into this phenomenon last summer when a number of clinicians noticed that they were having a hard time acquiring the drug praziquantel which is used to treat schistosomiasis, a parasitic disease that can cause chronic liver damage and affects an estimated 200 million people worldwide. The drug's manufacturer had simply stopped making it in the United States because it was losing money.
"Here we had a perfectly treatable infection and no access to a drug to treat it in this country," says White. The maker of praziquantel has since agreed to resume production, but White and Moore have found numerous similar instances where effective dr
Contact: Jim Sliwa
American Society for Microbiology