Dearth of new antibiotics threatens efforts to contain AMR, says WHO

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Declining private investment and lack of innovation in the development of new antibiotics are undermining efforts to combat drug-resistant infections, says the World Health Organization (WHO).

Two new reports reveal a weak pipeline for antibiotic agents: ‘Antibacterial agents in clinical development’ & ‘Antibacterial agents in preclinical development’.

The 60 products in development (50 antibiotics and 10 biologics) bring little benefit over existing treatments and very few target the most critical resistant bacteria (Gram-negative bacteria).

While pre-clinical candidates are more innovative, it will take years before they reach patients, the WHO said.

“Never has the threat of antimicrobial resistance been more immediate and the need for solutions more urgent,” says Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of WHO.

“Numerous initiatives are underway to reduce resistance, but we also need countries and the pharmaceutical industry to step up and contribute with sustainable funding and innovative new medicines.”

The reports also found that research and development for antibiotics is primarily driven by small- or medium-sized enterprises with large pharmaceutical companies continuing to exit the field.