According to a new report, the emergence of antibacterial resistance is set to push antibiotic R&D back into the spotlight in an attempt to slow down the increasing levels of drug resistance that could well erode the medical advances of recent decades.
The problem has caused some observers to predict that antibacterial drug resistance could push healthcare back towards a pre-antibiotics age.
2005 has seen the launch of the first in a new class of antibiotics, the glycylcyclines from Wyeth. The product, tigecycline (Tygacil) joins the oxazolidinones, (Pfizer's linezolid) and lipopeptides (Cubist's daptomycin) in a small but growing arsenal against drug-resistant bacterial infections.
More are expected to join the fray, with several promising drug candidates in late stage development.
The report, produced by PharmaprojectsPLUS, reported that the antibiotics market was worth nearly $24 billion (€20 billion) in 2004.
Growth to 2009 is expected to be flat, as the market adjusts to the impact of key patent expiries and changes in prescribing patterns, there are still opportunities available, particularly in the hospital setting.
More than 70 per cent of the bacteria that cause hospital-acquired infections are resistant to at least one of the drugs most commonly used to treat them.
Persons infected with drug-resistant organisms are more likely to have longer hospital stays and require treatment with second or third choice drugs that may be less effective, more toxic, and more expensive.
The launch of these drugs by big pharma has signalled a big reversal in the drug business. Over the past few decades, many of the biggest drug firms, including Eli Lilly, Wyeth and Roche, seemed to back away from antibiotic development, closing plants and shuttering programs.
The antibiotics market has long suffered from often long and tortuous development times, with less than impressive return on investments.
Added to the highly competitive, over-saturated market swamped by generics, it was no wonder that investing in this market appeared so unappealing.
Indeed, a report by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), found only five new antibiotics in the R&D pipeline out of more than 506 drugs in development.
Since 1998, only 10 new antibiotics have been approved, and only two of those are truly novel (having a new target of action, with no cross-resistance with other antibiotics). In 2002, among 89 new medicines emerging on the market, none was an antibiotic.
However, according to the report, the lack of competition could present a key opportunity for companies working in the antibiotics sector. Products, which could meet these unmet needs, would almost certainly be able to command premium prices.
PharmaprojectsPLUS' report, "The Next Generation Antibiotics - Combating Drug Resistance," is now available to purchase here.