Thursday, June 14, 2012

Need to fast-track antibiotic drugs

MUMBAI: Resistance to antibiotics has been recognised as one of the three biggest threats to health by World Health Organisation, yet there has been little headway in the discovery and development of drugs to fight infections. To make matters worse, the indiscriminate use of antibiotics resulting in easy access of these drugs in many markets including India, is leading to cases where patients are developing resistance to even the high-end antibiotics. The problem is widespread across the world, stressing the need to clear barriers in discovery of new antibiotics, according to medical journal Lancet. Professor Laura Piddock, president British Society for Antimicrobial Chemotherapy (BSAC), says a global alliance --similar to the GAVI Alliance and Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation which have successfully delivered vital vaccines worldwide, could be used to encourage new antimicrobial development. Reportedly, special incentives for antibiotic drugs are being debated in the US, which may even lead to a fast-track process of approvals. Recently domestic player Venus Remedies received a patent from the US Patent Office for an antibiotic product. The drug 'CSE1034' has been found to be effective against a wide range of drug resistant infections including superbugs. The pharma industry's interest in antimicrobial drug development has dwindled due to a number of factors: mergers of companies, lack of profit in such drugs since they are usually short-course treatments, and the onerous regulatory barriers that must be overcome for a drug to be approved, the Lancet adds. Recent data suggests that over 2008-2010, there were only two new antibiotics approved. One of the reasons for a thin antibiotic pipeline may be most multinationals are channelising money into R&D of drugs for chronic diseases like diabetes and cardio-vascular ailments, which are more lucrative because of the sheer size of patients. Further, the drug discovery process is itself risky and fraught with many failures, with some molecules faltering on safety or efficiency account, even at final stages.

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