The Superbug Crisis Heats Up

With superbugs causing upwards of 35,000 deaths per year, the global antibiotic crisis is intensifying, says the World Health Organization (WHO)—and depending which direction policymakers go, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) could either be relieved or exacerbated by policy. 

The problem: “Declining private investment and lack of innovation in the development of new antibiotics are undermining efforts to combat drug-resistant infections,” says WHO.

And compounding it: “Relatively low profits for antibiotics mean the world is ‘precariously reliant’ on just a handful of pharmaceutical companies to keep the supply going or launch new superbug killers,” reports POLITICO in coverage of another new report from the Access to Medicine Foundation.

What they’re saying: “Unfortunately, this drought of new treatments will not end anytime soon, unless policy-makers fix the broken antibiotics market. Right now, drug companies are hesitant to invest in superbug research, since any resulting treatment would only be used in limited, emergency cases. Researchers stand little chance of recouping their costs, much less of earning a profit. Biotech firms and investors like us won’t be able to fight superbugs without government assistance,” explains Kasim Kutay, CEO of  Novo Holdings, ahead of a session at Davos on the subject

Policy can offer a solution: For example, the DISARM Act would create a separate reimbursement payment for antibiotics under Medicare, allowing hospitals to fully recoup the cost of newer treatments. 

But policy can also create peril: Drug price controls remain on the table, despite all the evidence they will make us miss out on new cures—a risk we shouldn’t take in the middle of the global superbug crisis.

Frank Being Frank: “Without such incentives, I’m worried these innovative companies developing new medicines will struggle to obtain the resources they need to fully develop them and bring these breakthroughs to patients,” – Dr. Greg Frank, BIO’s Director of Infectious Disease Policy and Working to Fight AMR