Antibiotic Resistance Not Just A Probem Of Excess Demand

When I’ve posted about trends in antibiotic resistant bugs, it’s usually to join the chorus who argue that antibiotics are overused.  But this item from Gregory Daniel at the Brookings Institution helped remind me that matters of antibiotic demand are not the only economic forces at play.

Daniels uses a recent Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report on antibiotic resistance to outline several proposals for addressing the challenges facing antibiotic drug development.  The CDC report identifies 18 different bacteria that pose varying levels of threat due to their resistance to certain antibiotics.   Daniels focuses on two major thrusts – adjustments to the drug development process and changes in the business model.  Both were addressed during a February 2013 Brookings workshop on the topic.  The first is familiar to many who have followed drug development policy, and the second was new to me.

But, frankly, I should have seen it.  I’ve noted at length about how production capacity for a variety of minerals, drugs and elements dried up over the last few decades.  Similar forces appear to have been at play for antibiotics.  Whether swayed by excessive development costs, or what was falsely seen as a limitless future for certain antibiotics, I don’t know.  But we have yet another item that we are ill-equipped to manage when it comes time to either make more, or make a necessary substitute.  Advances in technology have, perhaps perversely, made us worse in certain respects, about managing resources (or at least their supply chains).

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