Drug Company Closing Underscores Needs for Swift Federal Action Supporting Antibiotic Development, Stewardship
News today that the antibiotic producer Achaogen has filed for bankruptcy represents the most recent consequence of the steep economic challenges facing antibiotic research and development. The closing of one of the few remaining small antibiotics companies underscores the need for immediate steps to ensure the innovation and availability of effective infection-fighting drugs.
Achaogen’s antibiotic—plazomicin, which can be used to treat serious infections – was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in June 2018 and is of critical value to patients and to public health. Achaogen, however, like other recently closed antibiotics companies, could not make a sufficient return on its investment because antibiotics are used infrequently and for short durations while new antibiotics are held in reserve to protect their effectiveness. The closing of Achaogen further decreases the likelihood that investors will risk supporting antibiotic research and development, in spite of the immediate and pressing need for these drugs.
Recent data shows that 162,000 people in the US die every year from antibiotic resistant infections, making infections that don’t respond to existing drugs the third leading cause of death in the US. With the current antibiotic pipeline insufficient to meet patient needs, this additional setback to the field comes at a time when the need for increased antibiotic research and development is urgent.
Essential to treatments and procedures that that include cancer chemotherapy, organ and bone marrow transplants and other complex surgeries, antibiotics play a pivotal role in modern medicine. Achaogen’s closing provides added evidence and must provide added impetus for new federal policies providing opportunities for companies to earn fair and reasonable returns on critical investments, stimulating antibiotic research and development, by and promoting appropriate antibiotic use through stewardship.