In March 2013, both the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the chief medical officer in England, Sally Davies, sounded the alarm about the current infection dangers that are rapidly growing in severity, stemming from the “nightmare bacteria” such as the E.coli and CRE superbug strands. At the moment, there are only seven new treatment drugs currently in development and that are being tested on people with infections that are drug resistant and gram-negative.

The CDC made their statement based on the most recent data that has been released by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) which showed the results of having monitored the number of bacteria that are capable of remaining resistant to even the strongest antibiotics available in today’s treatment arsenal.

At the very heart of these announcements is the suggestion that the world may be on a rapid path back in time to the days before antibiotics could come to the rescue and keep patients safer from infection following premature birth, surgery, or chemotherapy. In the words of Dr. David Relman, the president of the IDSA, in a statement he released following the report “Simply put, the antibiotic pipeline is on life support and novel solutions are required to resuscitate it – now”.

According to the author of the IDSA report, Dr. Helen Boucher, a Tufts Medical Center infectious diseases expert and IDSA board member, “We’re all at risk.”. Boucher explained that she feels this way because health officials are not only failing to move forward, but they are actually losing ground because the drugs simply are not being developed fast enough to keep up with the evolution of these superbugs in building resistance. There is an “alarmingly low” number of antibacterial compounds in the phase 2 or 3 of development trials right now.

Drug resistance isn’t anything new. Bacteria has been growing resistant to available drugs since shortly after penicillin first made its way into pharmaceutical use in 1940. This has also been the story with each new generation of antibiotics that has been developed since that time. The blame for this has been aimed directly at the misuse and overuse of each of these different forms of drug.

It is already known that not all of the antibiotics currently being tested will make it all the way through the development process. Among the seven that were identified as being in phase 2 or 3 of development, the company behind one of the drugs, Polymedix, has already filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Another company, AstraZeneca, which is the manufacturer of two of those drugs, has announced that it will be moving forward with a smaller investment into the development of antibiotics. The remaining companies include GlaxoSmithKline, Cubist Pharmaceuticals, Merck, and Achaogen Inc.

The IDSA is now seeking new and innovative economic incentives to help to encourage pharmaceutical companies to turn their attention back to the development of antibiotics. Could a TARP similar to the banking and lending institution bailout be the solution to this public health crisis?

The author is a Pharma consultant in The CECON Group. The CECON Group sources scientific and engineering consultants quickly, credibly and economically to address your technical or business need. Seasoned Project Managers with technical experience conduct a custom search and leverage the CECON network of consultants to locate, vet, and recommend technical experts for your consideration. We highly value rapid response, quick turnaround, and all efforts to shorten business and project timetables.