Antibiotic production plummets amid rise of superbugs

Doctors say drug makers must do more to combat antibiotic resistance

The use of antibiotics on animals has drawn huge protests
(Image credit: Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images))

Drug makers need to do far more to tackle the rise of superbugs, according to a major new report presented at the World Economic Forum in Davos which found the number of new antibiotics being developed has fallen sharply since 2000.

The Netherlands-based Access to Medicine Foundation (AMF) assessed 30 of the world’s biggest drug makers to deliver the first independent analysis of the pharmaceutical industry’s efforts to combat antibiotic resistance.

The overprescription of antibiotics, combined with their use in animals, has led to a growing resistance among humans and led to the rise of so-called ‘suberbugs’ such as MRSA which are immune to traditional forms of treatment.

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The AMF report claims 25,000 people in Europe die every year due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and senior doctors have warned growing resistance could spell “the end of modern medicine” and make routine operations such as caesarean sections and cancer treatment impossible.

The Guardian says antibiotics are “urgently needed, yet there is little incentive for drugmakers to develop them as they will be tightly controlled once they reach the market to limit the risk of resistance emerging”.

This has led to a dramatic drop-off in the number of antibacterial drugs approved in the US since the turn of the century, despite fungal infections now causing more deaths than malaria or tuberculosis.

The head of AMF, Jayasree Iyer, warned that “the threat that once-deadly infections could again become life-threatening is intensifying” and would continue to increase unless more was done to make sure antibiotics were used in the right doses and on the right bugs.

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