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    Where Are the New Antibiotics?

    With the threat of superbugs and the possibility of an antibiotic-less future, alternatives are needed now.

    Bacteria test

    Antibiotic use is more scrutinized than ever, with the goal of reducing poor prescribing practices and using antibiotics in a targeted manner. But what is actually being done to combat the superbugs we face right now?

    This week, the World Health Organization (WHO) published a new classification of antibiotics. WHO recommends that penicillin-type drugs be used initially and that other types of antibiotics be used only in emergencies.

    "What we need to do is stop paying for antibiotics based on how many times they are prescribed, to discourage use. We don't want colistin [polymyxin E] used very frequently. In fact we don't want it used at all," Suzanne Hill, WHO's Director of Essential Medicines and Health Products, told Reuters.

    So what does the future of antibiotics look like? To answer that, the PEW Charitable Trusts took a comprehensive look at the antibiotics pipeline to find out what drugs are being developed and is still missing from the antibiotic repertoire.

    Currently, according to PEW, there are 41 new antibiotics in development. Out of these, 15 are in phase 1, 13 in phase 2, and 11 in phase 3. Two antibiotics have completed phase 3 and have New Drug Applications. However, only about 60% of drugs that enter phase 3 end up getting approval. This led Carolyn Shore, PhD, an Officer on PEW’s antibiotic resistance project, to conclude that much more needs to be done. “Based on the pipeline analysis,” she told Drug Topics, “it is very clear that there are not enough drugs that are available to patients.”

    Less than a third of drugs in the pipeline are part of a novel drug class or have a novel mechanism of action, meaning that more needs to be done to address the threat of superbugs. PEW looked not only at conventional antibiotics in the pipeline, but also at what they call “nontraditional products” in the pipeline.

    Up next: How nontraditional products could save antibiotics

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