What has become of antibiotic drugs

You catch a bug, head to the doctor, they hook you up with an antibiotic and you go on your merry way. Right? Well, the latest news in health and medicine says we may have been overdoing it, and, in the process, creating diseases with antibiotic resistance. So how to prevent antibiotic resistance from getting worse?

People have been overdoing it with antibiotics, which can result in antibiotic resistance. (Credit: Amanda Kahler)

People have been overdoing it with antibiotics, which can result in antibiotic resistance. (Credit: Amanda Kahler)

There haven’t been any new antibiotic drugs created by the pharmaceutical industry in recent years nor any on the horizon, leaving doctors stumped and more and more people worried.

Modern medicine threatened

One of the hallmarks of modern medicine has been our ability to successfully fight common diseases—turning once deadly viruses into a mere inconvenience. But are those days going to become a distant memory soon? The World Health Organization (WHO) conducted its first-ever survey to gauge the growth of antibiotic-resistance germs around the world. The results were disturbing to say the least.

The International New York Times reported May 12, 2014, on this issue in “The Rise of Antibiotic Resistance,” quoting the WHO as saying, “”A post- antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries can kill, far from being an apocalyptic fantasy, is instead a very real possibility for the 21st century.”

Not only does this mean that once standard treatments will no longer work, but also that costs will rise as more infections become harder to treat and require more intensive efforts and longer hospital stays.

No new antibiotic drugs

So why has the pharmaceutical industry not been coming up with new and better antibiotics all along? According to “Fixing the ‘apocalyptic scenario’ the Antibiotics Broken Market” written July 7, 2014, by Nathan Fortin for The Wall Street Journal, there is no money in it. “Witnessing poor returns in the recent decades, the drugmakers slashed investment in antibiotics. The drugmakers say they suffered huge losses from a class of low-priced medicines that are only used for short periods,” Fortin wrote. In fact, there hasn’t been a new class of antibiotic drugs created since 1987.

Experts in health and medicine and the pharmaceutical industry offer three solutions to the problem. First, create a system where governments agree to purchase new antibiotics for a certain period of time, ensuring a profit for the manufacturers. The second option would be to give antibiotics a longer patent period. Finally, offer state support for new research, which may encourage antibiotic drug makers to create new options.

Taking immediate action

Regardless of what the pharmaceutical industry does, it will be years before new antibiotic drugs can be created and tested. In the meantime, how to prevent antibiotic resistance? “The End of Antibiotics. Can We Come Back from the Brink?” by Dr. Tom Frieden, posted on The Health Care Blog offers his suggestions to immediately tackle the problem:

1.  Detect and track patterns of antibiotic resistance. This would help speed up the ability of doctors and hospitals to discover which resistance threats would cause the most problems.

2.  Respond to outbreaks involving antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Knowing where antibiotic resistance is happening will help healthcare providers better prepare for and stop outbreaks.

3.  Prevent infections, prevent resistant bacteria from spreading and improve antibiotic prescribing. Prescription practices need to be improved, so doctors aren’t over prescribing antibiotic drugs, and patients need to realize that overuse of such medicines can be harmful in the long run, too.

4.  Discover new antibiotics and new diagnostic tests for resistant bacteria. Not only should the pharmaceutical industry be creating new antibiotic drugs, but also those in the fields of health and medicine can be researching new molecular diagnostics tools, which could determine within hours if a patient has an infection, if it is resistant and then tailor a treatment for that specific bug.

Want to learn more about health and medicine or the pharmaceutical industry? Check out Questia—particularly the section on antibiotic resistance or antibiotic usage

How can we prevent the abuse of antibiotics? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

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