Economic Incentives Needed to Fix the Broken Antibiotic Market

Economic Incentives Needed to Fix the Broken Antibiotic Market
Last Updated March 1, 2021
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Getty Images

Antibiotic resistance, a critical public health and national security threat, requires a robust arsenal of novel drugs that bacteria won’t readily outsmart. Yet the pipeline of antibiotics in clinical development is inadequate to address current—let alone future—patient needs. Getting a new antibiotic to market is resource-intensive, but the return on investment is relatively low. In part this stems from the public health imperative to use such drugs as little as possible, to preserve their effectiveness and slow the emergence of resistance. As a result, major pharmaceutical companies have backed away from antibiotic development, and the companies remaining in the space struggle to sustain their operations.

Consistent with recommendations from numerous studies and commissions, The Pew Charitable Trusts supports federal incentives to catalyze antibiotic development.

Antibiotics
Antibiotics
Opinion

A Special Place for Antibiotics in the Drug Pricing Debate

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Just days ago, Melinta Therapeutics—one of the few companies to recently bring a new antibiotic to market—filed for bankruptcy. This news comes less than a year after another developer, Achaogen, did the same. If you haven’t heard of either, it may be because more than 90 percent of antibiotics in the pipeline today are being developed by small companies like these, instead of the pharmaceutical giants that once dominated the field.

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The Critical Need for New Antibiotics

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In the U.S., there are not enough antibiotics in development to meet current and anticipated patient needs.