Published Online: Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Treating the increase in drug-resistant and potentially deadly bacterial infections, particularly methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, may not be so easy. A major problem is that the pipeline for antibiotics is dwindling.

The Infectious Diseases Society of America indicated there were 16 new antibiotics approved by the FDA between 1983 and 1987, and 14 between 1988 and 1992, totaling an average of 3 a year. In the past 15 years, those figures have been steadily declining with only 5 new antibiotics getting FDA approval between 2003 and today.

Why the lack of new drugs? The pharmaceutical manufacturers are facing higher costs for new drugs that do not bring in the money when they enter the market. Therefore,the companies are investing funds in other types of medications for profits, including chronic diseases.

A new report, however, from the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America found that pharmaceutical companies are currently testing 338 new drugs to help treat infectious disease, including 11 medicines and 4 vaccines to treat staphylococcal infections. The new medicines being tested are 146 vaccines to prevent diseases such as smallpox and staph; 83 antibiotics/antibacterials to treat infections such as pneumonia and tuberculosis; 75 antivirals to treat such viruses as hepatitis and influenza; and 25 antifungals.

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