EMEA report issues urgent call for new antibiotics

September 25, 2009
Stephanie Sutton

Stephanie Sutton was an assistant editor at Pharmaceutical Technology Europe.

Pharmaceutical Technology Europe PTE

A report from the EMEA has highlighted the critical fact that there are not enough new antibiotics in the pharma industry's pipeline to fight multidrug-resistant bacteria.

A report from the EMEA has highlighted the critical fact that there are not enough new antibiotics in the pharma industry's pipeline to fight multidrug-resistant bacteria. The report, The bacterial challenge — time to react, says that a global strategy is "urgently" required to address the problem and to kick-start the development of new antibiotics.

"Industry's pipeline contains very few new antibiotics active against multidrug-resistant bacteria. Without stimulating R&D into new antibiotics, an increasing number of patients will be without effective treatment," Bo Aronsson, who was responsible for the EMEA part of the study, said in a press statement issued by the agency.

According to the report, bacterial resistance in the EU is already "substantial" and is "likely to increase". In particular, the growing resistance among Gram-negative bacteria, which can cause serious infections in humans, is expected to "constitute a major challenge for the future". Only two agents "with new or possibly new targets and documented activity" were identified during the study — and both are only in early phases of development.

It's not looking good for other antibiotics either. The report identified only 15 antibacterial agents under development that may potentially be helpful against the challenge of multidrug resistance; however, most of these were in the early stages of development and primarily targeting bacteria for which treatment options are already available.

This lack of innovation in antibiotics can be attributed to several reasons. The report says that many difficulties are often encountered when identifying new bacterial targets, and there is also the possibility that the majority of suitable targets have already been discovered.

To combat the gap between multidrug-resistant bacteria and the development of new antibacterial agents, the report states that a European and global strategy is required. Analysing the antibiotics currently being in light of current resistant patterns and trends could be starting point for discussing incentives for antibiotic development.

"The growing gap between the increasing frequency of infections caused by multidrug-resistant bacteria and the decline in research and development of new antibiotics is now threatening to take us back to the pre-antibiotic era," says the report. "The continued development of effective antibiotics must be considered as a ‘common good’."