Only a Handful of Large Research Based Companies Remain in Developing New Antibiotics

03 February 2020

GMP News

A quarter (25%) of clinical-stage antibiotics are supported by plans to ensure better access and good stewardship after launch compared to 7% in 2018, but the clinical pipeline of antibiotics for priority infections remains small, according to a report published by the Access to Medicine Foundation.

The 2020 ‘antimicrobial resistance benchmark’ report evaluates how the 30 most active pharmaceutical companies in antimicrobial research and development (R&D) across the world are limiting drug resistance.

It shows that currently 32 antibiotics are in late-stage clinical development, of which 8 have plans in place to accelerate access to antibiotics and stewardship after launch.

However, it adds that, with such a small pipeline, the need for access and stewardship plans is “more acute”, particularly as the 17 candidates currently without plans include antibiotics needed to “combat superbugs, such as Clostridium difficile, Neisseria gonorrhoeae and MRSA”.

According to the report, three pharmaceutical companies — GSK, Entasis and Cipla — are the current leaders in the field, with GSK having the biggest pipeline and developing the bulk of new vaccines. However, since 2018 two major pharmaceutical companies, Novartis and Sanofi, have retreated from new R&D into antibiotics.

“The low profitability of antibiotics is leaving the world precariously reliant on just a handful of pharmaceutical companies to develop and manufacture them,” the report says.

The report adds that many antibiotics remain unavailable in low- and middle-income countries.

“Such ‘access gaps’ can lead people to misuse antibiotics,” said Jayasree Iyer, executive director of the Access to Medicine Foundation. “Pharma companies must address access to protect the effectiveness of their medicines.”

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