But Antibiotics Don't Make Any Money! Boo!

Last month, I wrote about the Centers for Disease Control's warning that untreatable gonorrhea was in our future, because of its ability to quickly evolve into antibiotic-resistant strains—and because of the lack of institutional investment in developing new classes of antibiotics, since "antibiotics are difficult to produce and are less profitable than other drugs."

Now Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization, is warning of "a global crisis in antibiotics caused by rapidly evolving resistance among microbes responsible for common infections that threaten to turn them into untreatable diseases."
Addressing a meeting of infectious disease experts in Copenhagen, she said that every antibiotic ever developed was at risk of becoming useless.

"A post-antibiotic era means, in effect, an end to modern medicine as we know it. Things as common as strep throat or a child's scratched knee could once again kill."

..."We are losing our first-line antimicrobials. Replacement treatments are more costly, more toxic, need much longer durations of treatment, and may require treatment in intensive care units. ... Some sophisticated interventions, like hip replacements, organ transplants, cancer chemotherapy, and care of preterm infants, would become far more difficult or even too dangerous to undertake."

...Dr Chan continued: "In terms of new replacement antibiotics, the pipeline is virtually dry. The cupboard is nearly bare."
Obviously I'm a dirty, bleeding-heart, socialist radical, but it seems to me that failure to vigorously pursue new classes of antibiotics because they won't yield a strong return on investment is a little short-sighted when the downside is "an end to modern medicine as we know it."

Maybe it's okay to reinvest some of those boner pill profits into something that won't rake in cash hand over fist but will keep alive the people who want to enjoy all those rock hard dicks. (As well as the people who don't.)

Chan also notes that part of the problem is the irresponsible use of antibiotics, highlighting, for example, the fact that, worldwide, "greater quantities of antibiotics are used in healthy animals than in unhealthy humans." Yikes. Chan politely called this unfettered use of antibiotics in food production "a cause for great concern."
She called for measures to tackle the threat by doctors prescribing antibiotics appropriately, patients following their treatment, and restrictions on the use of antibiotics in animals.

But she said attention was "still sporadic" and actions "inadequate".

"At a time of multiple calamities in the world, we cannot allow the loss of essential antimicrobials, essential cures for many millions of people, to become the next global crisis," she said.
The perfect storm is on the horizon: Impoverished people whose immune systems are compromised by malnourishment and disease living in areas vulnerable to extreme weather caused by global climate change, increased events of which (e.g. tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes) often leave people without clean water and smashed into temporary housing in high concentrations, where simple infections now immune to anitbiotics are deadly.

And we'll just sit back and let it happen, because antibiotics ain't making anyone rich.

[H/T to @mouselink.]

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