Economic Incentives Needed to Fix the Broken Antibiotic Market

Economic Incentives Needed to Fix the Broken Antibiotic Market
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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 isn’t keeping pace with the growing threat of drug-resistant superbugs. In fact, every FDA-approved antibiotic in use today is based on a scientific discovery from 1984 or earlier. Getting a new antibiotic to market is resource-intensive, and the return on investment is relatively low. This stems partly 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, such as those proposed in the Pioneering Antimicrobial Subscriptions to End Upsurging Resistance (PASTEUR) Act, to catalyze antibiotic development.

Scientific research Laboratory
Scientific research Laboratory
Article

Legislation Aims to Battle Superbugs

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Bipartisan legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives aims to jump-start the development of urgently needed new antibiotics, specifically those that can address unmet patient needs, by changing the way U.S. government programs pay for them.

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Antibiotic Development Needs Economic Incentives
Antibiotic Development Needs Economic Incentives
Data Visualization

Antibiotic Development Needs Economic Incentives

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The antibiotic market is categorically different from that of other pharmaceuticals. Research and development of any drug is expensive, but antibiotics have comparatively low prices and sales volume. As a result, the companies making them are going bankrupt, and many potentially lifesaving drugs end up falling into an antibiotic valley of death—dropping out of production before they can reach patients.

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Gonorrhea Could Soon Become Untreatable

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Just one antibiotic treatment option remains, and few new drugs are in development.

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blue pills
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Broken Antibiotics Market Puts Cancer Treatments at Risk

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Despite antibiotics’ vital role in cancer care, companies have abandoned their development in favor of more profitable drugs. Antibiotics protect cancer patients from life-threatening complications and save lives.