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Study finds few new antibiotics are in the pipeline

Despite a critical need for new antibiotics to treat drug-resistant infections and other infectious diseases, very few new antibiotics are being developed, according to a study in the May 1 issue of Clinical Infectious Diseases, now available online.

To document trends, researchers evaluated Food and Drug Administration (FDA) databases of approved drugs and the research and development (R&D) programs of the world's largest pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, by looking at the companies' websites and 2002 annual reports. They found that FDA approvals of new antibiotics declined 56 percent during the past 20 years (1998-2002 versus 1983-1987). Looking to the future, the researchers found only six new antibiotics in the R&D pipeline out of 506 drugs being developed. One of those drugs, telithromycin, was approved by FDA this month.

Bacteria, which are treated with antibiotics, are by far the most common cause of infectious-related deaths in the United States. Because of the emergence of drug-resistant bacteria, the researchers note that there are few or no treatment options for many infections.

Although the need for new antibiotics is increasing, a number of factors make these drugs less economically attractive than drugs that treat chronic diseases. "Pharmaceutical companies appear to be more interested in developing drugs that patients take for life, such as those used to treat hypertension or arthritis," said lead author Brad Spellberg, MD, of the Research and Education Institute and Department of Medicine at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. "By comparison, antibiotics are usually prescribed for one or two weeks at most."

In addition, the researchers note that in order to prevent the evolution of resistant strains of bacteria, infectious disease physicians try very hard to limit the overuse of newer antibiotics. "This is absolutely required from a public health perspective," Dr. Spellberg said. "From the pharmaceutical companies' p
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Contact: Diana Olson
dolson@idsociety.org
703-299-0201
Infectious Diseases Society of America
19-Apr-2004


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