Monday, December 19, 2016 by Randall Wilkens
The ongoing quest to control and eliminate bacteria which is completely resistant to conventional antibiotics seems to be consistently rife with setbacks. While antibiotics can be quite useful in treating a varying degree of sicknesses, they are also contributing to the creation of superbugs. Often times, a patient is prescribed an antibiotic when it isn’t necessary. The only purpose this serves is to make the patient’s existing bacteria more resistant to antibiotics, which in turn promotes the growth of superbugs.
As these superbugs become more and more powerful and prevalent, the death toll continues to increase. Currently hundreds of thousands of people die worldwide annually, but Jim O’Neill, the head of the Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, predicts that unless something is done, and soon, that number will grow into the millions.
He recently stated, “Drug-resistant infections already kill hundreds of thousands a year globally, and by 2050 that figure could be more than 10 million. The economic cost will also be significant, with the world economy being hit by up to 100 trillion US dollars by 2050 if we do not take action.” Essentially, antibiotics are beginning to fail in greater numbers to the point that they will no longer protect humans from infection within the next two or three decades. Mankind would be reduced to a Victorian age of medicine where something currently as simple as a scratch could prove to be fatal in the long run.
It is with this mindset that many companies are working feverishly to create newer and stronger antibiotics in order to combat the growing threat of extremely resistant superbugs. As can be expected with antibiotics though, while there are many positive possible outcomes in the creation of such medicine, there are also many potential negatives associated as well.
A prime example of this is the creation of a drug called solithromycin produced by Cempra Inc. While solithromycin has been shown to have positive results when used to treat community acquired pneumonia, which is what ailed Hillary Clinton earlier this year, the drug also has drawbacks. In clinical trials, patients were shown to develop elevated liver enzymes while on solithromycin at a far more alarming rate than those taking a different medication. Despite this information, an FDA panel narrowly approved the dug with a vote of 7 to 6. The panel asked that once solithromycin is approved that Cempra perform further testing regarding the risk of liver toxicity. While the FDA does not have to heed the warnings of the panel, should solithromycin be approved, heavy restrictions will be placed on its use, so as not to place patients at further risk.