WBB's Thought Leadership

Antibiotic Shortage Crisis

June 11

Manufacturing shortages of some antibiotics are fostering instances of antimicrobial resistance in patients who receive less-effective medicines to treat their conditions.

WBB Take: Several manufacturing disasters and unforeseen events have caused a worldwide shortage of some widely-used antibiotics, manufactured and distributed by only a few drug companies. Low and middle-income countries are experiencing the effects of the antibiotic shortages more than high-income countries, and because these antibiotics have relatively narrower profit margins, pharma companies are not increasing production to match the shortfall.
Physicians are placed in a predicament where they must ration antibiotics, or administer less than ideal alternative antibiotics or drugs. This practice has resulted in an increased incidence of superbugs in the patient population, which in-turn fuels future antimicrobial resistance, and a need for newer, stronger pharmaceuticals.  
By monitoring the worldwide incidence of superbugs, pharmaceutical companies and researchers can continue developing the most ideal drugs to fight antimicrobial resistant diseases. To encourage companies to develop low-margin anti-biotics, they may need additional incentives from outside organizations to take on the responsibilities of increasing production of necessary antibiotics to be distributed to those countries experiencing shortages.

Cited by Shannen Irwin

Excerpt: “Shortages of some life-saving antibiotics are putting growing numbers of patients at risk and fueling the evolution of ‘superbugs’ that do not respond to modern medicines, according to a new report on Thursday.”

“In absence of the right drugs, patients may take less effective or poor quality medicines that increase the risk of antimicrobial resistance developing.
‘Things are getting worse because the market is not fixing the problem, despite the expansion in the need for such specialist antibiotics,’ said AMF Executive Director Jayasree Iyer.

“Global demand for antibiotics has grown by two-thirds since 2000, driven by population growth and the need for medicines to fight infectious diseases in low- and middle-income countries.
“Most antibiotics are cheap, off-patent generic medicines, which is good for affordability. But that also means they have very low profit margins – particularly compared to modern drugs for diseases like cancer – offering manufacturers little incentive to invest in new production facilities.

“The rise in shortages has gone hand in hand with a wave of consolidation among the companies making generic drugs – which range from global pharmaceutical giants to smaller firms in countries such as India – reducing the number of suppliers making individual product lines.”
“But antibiotic shortages can have especially dire consequences, since doctors have to resort to sub-optimal treatments that are less efficient at killing specific pathogens, leading to the rise of resistant bacteria or so-called superbugs.

“An estimated 70 percent of bacteria are already resistant to at least one antibiotic that is commonly used to treat them, making the evolution of such superbugs one of the biggest threats facing medicine today.”

​Source: Another Antibiotic Crisis: Fragile Supply Leads to Shortages


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