More bad news on new drugs

The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) has published a new report that fills in the background on last week’s news below, and confirms: The landscape for new drugs against MRSA and other multi-drug resistant organisms is bleak. (The organisms, summarized in the acronym ESKAPE, are: E. faecium, MRSA, Klebsiella, Acinetobacter, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Enterobacter.)

The report, published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, is both an update of surveys of the new-drug landscape done in 2004 and 2006, and also a call to action that asks for broad federal effort to encourage pharma companies to produce new drugs.

Here are the highlights:

  • Since the last iteration of the survey in 2006, only one new antimicrobial, doripenem — a very broad-spectrum injectable that is most active against the Gram-negative bacterium P. aeruginosa — has been approved.
  • Only three new compounds — ceftobiprole, dalbavancin and Paratek Pharmaceutical’s PTK-0796 — are in their final rounds of trials. (The report was obviously written before the latest news about ceftobiprole and dalbavancin.)
  • Four of seven efforts to achieve a staph vaccine have been terminated.
  • Though the pharma industry, through its lobbying arm PhRMA, claims “388 infectious diseases medicines and vaccines and 83 antibacterial drugs in development“, that number is misleading:

Careful review of these data reveals that most are preclinical and phase 1 compounds. Also included are topical and nonabsorbable antimicrobials, which we do not consider here, and several compounds for which development has been terminated. Finally, … many of the listed drugs are previously approved agents that are being studied for new indications.

Just to make sure no one misses the big picture, the authors emphasize:

…The number of new antibacterials that make it through the complete development process and ultimately receive FDA approval has precipitously decreased over the past 25 years. Indeed, we found a 75% decrease in systemic antibacterials approved by the FDA from 1983 through 2007, with evidence of continued decrease in approvals, even during the most recent 5-year period.

What are the answers? IDSA is candid, as in its earlier reports, that it believes incentives for drug companies are the only way to improve the situation: financial boosts, patent extensions and changes in trial requirements. Two things are critical, the group says:

  • Novel intravenous and oral drugs to treat both hospitalized and community-based patients are needed, as opposed to “me too” drugs that provide minimal improvement over existing therapies.
  • Priority should be given to antimicrobials with the potential to treat serious infections that are resistant to current antibacterial agents.


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