LONDON -- A new report suggests that growing antibacterial resistance is set to put antibiotic R&D back in vogue. A highly competitive, over-saturated market awash with generics. Often long and tortuous development times, with less than impressive return on investments. These are common perceptions about the antibiotics market. So why invest in a market that looks so unappealing? Notwithstanding these negative viewpoints, the underlying trend is a market undergoing dramatic transformation that will present many opportunities. The key factor driving change is the growing problem of antibacterial drug resistance, according to a new study, Next Generation Antibiotics - Combating Drug Resistance.
Media reports of killer 'superbugs' and flesh-eating bacteria make sensational headlines. Nevertheless, the growing threat posed by antibacterial drug resistance is all too real. The World Health Organization (WHO) believes that increasing levels of drug resistance could erode the medical advances of recent decades. Some healthcare experts have even warned that antibacterial drug resistance could push healthcare back toward a pre-antibiotics age.
In essence, pathogenic bacteria are gaining the upper hand in an evolutionary arms race, with antibiotic-resistant infections becoming immune to many of the current treatment options. This is creating an urgent need for new drugs with novel actions to combat the growing threat of antibiotic resistance. It also creates opportunities in an otherwise flat market.
Over the past decades there has been a significant decline in the number of new antibiotics reaching the market, and few new classes have been introduced. Exacerbating the problem was the retreat by larger mainstream pharmaceutical companies from the market. However, the R&D challenge has been taken up by an increasing number of biotechnology companies. Furthermore, the urgency of the current situation is beginning to tempt mainstream pharmaceutical companies back into the antibiotic R&D arena.
2005 has seen the launch of the first in a new class of antibiotics, the glycylcyclines from Wyeth. The product, tigecycline (Tygacil) joins the oxazolidinones (Pfizer's linezolid) and lipopeptides (Cubist's daptomycin) in a small but growing arsenal against drug-resistant bacterial infections. More are expected to join the fray, with several promising drug candidates in late stage development. Pharmaprojects, the market leading pharmaceutical and biotechnology R&D database currently holds profiles of more than 300 antibiotics in active development. Of the agents under investigation for treating drug-resistant bacterial infections, eight antibiotics are in late stage clinical development.
The antibiotics market was worth nearly $24 billion in 2004. Although growth to 2009 is expected to be flat, as the market adjusts to the impact of key patent expiries and changes in prescribing patterns, there are still opportunities available, particularly in the hospital setting.
The increasing rates of drug resistance will neutralize the effectiveness of currently available drugs and new treatment options will be needed to combat the resistance challenge. This presents a key opportunity for companies working in the antibiotics sector. Products meeting these unmet needs will be able to command premium prices. The gradual introduction of novel agents designed to treat drug resistant infections will help to offset the loss of revenues from key products losing patent protection.