Incentives For Drug Makers To Develop New Antibiotics

Tax breaks and patent extensions are being considered to spur development of new antibiotics

The question of how to convince drug companies to produce important, but un-sexy (read un-profitable) drugs such as antibiotics has plagued public health officials, the medical community and patients for many years.

Now, with the supply of new antibiotics “distressingly low,” according to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, and with widespread resistance to antibiotics becoming an even greater threat, the government is considering financial incentives, like tax breaks and patent extensions, to drugmakers to get them to amp up production of these much-needed medications, The New York Times reports.

Andrew Pollack lays out some of the proposals being considered in his Times piece this weekend.

The world’s weakening arsenal against “superbugs” has prompted scientists to warn that everyday infections could again become a major cause of death just as they were before the advent of penicillin around 1940.

“For these infections, we’re back to dancing around a bubbling cauldron while rubbing two chicken bones together,” said Dr. Brad Spellberg, an infectious disease specialist at Harbor-U.C.L.A. Medical Center in Torrance, Calif.

For example, scientists have become alarmed by the spread from India of a newly discovered mutation called NDM-1, which renders certain germs like E. coli invulnerable to nearly all modern antibiotics. About 100,000 Americans a year are killed by infections acquired in hospitals, many resistant to multiple antibiotics. Methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, the best known superbug, now kills more Americans each year than AIDS. Continue reading