The FDA Is Concerned
Even as the FDA approves new combinations of antibiotics designed specifically for treating these increasingly resistant infections, Mayora Walters, an epidemiologist and the lead of the antimicrobial resistance team with the Centers for Disease Control, says bacteria are mutating faster than we can make drugs to kill them.
“Our ability to create new antibiotics is being outpaced by the ability of bacteria to develop resistance,” she says. “And we’re seeing bacteria that are resistant to all antibiotics, except for drugs that have either a lot of bad side effects or are often associated with treatment failure. That’s a big concern.”
The CDC Has Issued A Report Raising the Alarm Bells
In November, 2019, the CDC issued a report called “Antibiotics Resistance Threats in The United States”. This report from the CDC, the second of its kind, presents data about the top 18 pathogens that require attention now. It emphasizes that antibiotic resistance is a One Health issue that can spread through people, animals, and the environment; threatens our most vulnerable friends and family members; and affects nearly every aspect of life.
What is the Medical and Scientific Community Doing To Respond To The FDA and CDC Warnings?
The short answer is not enough. An article in the NY Times summarizes the key reasons:
- Large pharmaceutical firms are refusing to work on new antibiotics, saying that they will not produce enough profits. This is because most antibiotics are prescribed for just days or weeks — unlike medicines for chronic conditions like diabetes or rheumatoid arthritis that have been blockbusters for them;
- The newer antibiotic startups that have invested billions to develop these drugs have not found a way to make money selling them and are going bankrupt;
- A new antibiotic can cost $2.6 billion to develop and the biggest part of that cost is the failures along the way;
- Coming up with new compounds is no easy feat; only two new classes of antibiotics have been introduced in the last 20 years;
- Many of the new drugs are not affordable by consumers, at least when compared to older generics that can cost a few dollars a pill. A typical course of Xerava, a newly approved antibiotic that targets multi-drug-resistant infections, can cost as much as $2,000;
- Many hospitals have been unwilling to pay high prices for these new therapies;
- Doctors have become reluctant to prescribe the newest medications, after years of being bombarded with warnings against over-prescribing antibiotics;
- Public health experts say the crisis calls for government intervention. Among the ideas that have wide backing are increased reimbursements for new antibiotics, federal funding to stockpile drugs effective against resistant germs and financial incentives that would offer much needed aid to start-ups and lure back the pharmaceutical giants. Despite bipartisan support, legislation aimed at addressing the problem has languished in Congress.
Now that all federal resources are dedicated to solving the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s not likely that the looming antibiotics resistance crisis will be solved any time soon.
The UK Is Also Working on Solutions
The UK has recognized the antibiotics crisis and has published a five-year strategy to work on it. The initiative is known as Antibiotic Action (read more about it here). Antibiotic Action, established in 2011 is a global public awareness initiative to inform everyone about drug resistance, and is wholly funded by the British Society For Antimicrobial Chemotherapy (BSAC). It is led by Dr. Nick Brown, Director of Antibiotic Action and Consultant Medical Microbiologist, Addenbrooke’s Hospital, Cambridge.
So, What Can Be Done in the Meantime?
We are working with UTI sufferers around the world to provide them with information about alternatives to antibiotics.
As medical researchers, we are constantly scouring the Internet for new scientific advances related to urinary tract infections. We post the information that we find on our website www.understandingutis.com.
We also conduct our own quantitative market research on this topic every six months to find out what UTI sufferers are finding most effective in treating the various types of UTIs. We continue to publish blogs and newsletters on the findings of this research.
Our current estimate is that 18% of all adults over the age of 18 are living with recurring UTIs, most of which are due to antibiotics resistance. That’s over 38 million people who share your pain and frustration.