New drugs for bad bugs

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Call it a chemical crystal ball. A new approach to predict whether a drug in development is likely to work and which dose is best could get antibiotics to market faster and more cheaply, say University of Florida researchers.

In recent years, scientists worldwide have sounded the alarm: There simply aren't enough drugs to combat bad bugs. Bacteria are increasingly adept at outwitting the traditional antibiotic arsenal.

Yet designing and testing new antibiotics can be a maddeningly slow and costly process -- if pharmaceutical companies even bother, says Hartmut Derendorf, chairman of the department of pharmaceutics at the University of Florida College of Pharmacy. Many would rather invest in compounds aimed at patients with chronic conditions such as high cholesterol or diabetes, not in drugs designed to be used for a week or two and then stopped once an infection clears, he said.

Now UF researchers have devised a patent-pending method that combines testing of various drug concentrations at the site of infection with a series of laboratory analyses and mathematical models designed to streamline drug development.

The method helps better determine which drugs are worth studying in people and at which dose, avoiding the typically lengthy and expensive trial-and-error approach that can take years.

"About one new antibiotic a year is approved," said Derendorf, who will discuss the technique Saturday (March 5) at the annual meeting of the American Society for Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics in Orlando. "That's certainly not enough. Even more worrisome, there are very few in the pipeline right now. Meanwhile, the requirements are getting longer and longer, and this is a huge dilemma with the recent discussion about Vioxx. That's created some doubt in the approval procedure. I think we have to come to a reasonable expectation here in terms of the balance between benefits and potential harm. The worries I

Contact: Melanie Ross
University of Florida

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