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Out of the 1.6 million reported patients with infectious diseases, almost half are suffering from drug-resistant strains. Drug-resistant tuberculosis is one of these, and the government confirmed just a week ago an exposed patient in San Bernardino County, California. This means that regular medicine isn’t effective for these types of individuals.

FDA Approval for Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis Antibiotic

The newly approved antibiotic is called pretomanid. A nonprofit group called TB Alliance developed the drug. Its interesting to note that not many companies are interested in pursuing expensive clinical trials for next-generation antibiotics right now. Its not deemed super profitable yet, so the TB Alliance’s announcement of the new drug is both surprising and promising.  

TB Alliance stated how they hope to “have a huge impact on the lives of afflicted people. It’s a major step toward the eradication of a disease like TB.” It’s promising for third world countries where diseases can be prevalent and hard to combat. This is especially true once exposure has taken place in larger populations.

doctor holding a stethoscope up to a child's back

The Prevalence of Infections Like Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis

Drug-resistant tuberculosis and other infections like these are growing more and more prominent. Researchers are hoping for TB Alliance to have some influence on other drug developers. If it doesn’t, then thirty years from now the public is looking at close to ten million annual deaths. 

These bacterial infections that develop resistance to antibiotics are dangerous. It can be extremely difficult to treat and the more common it becomes, the more untreatable infections may be.

Its true that developing antibiotics is expensive. Drug companies need to make revenue because of all the clinical trials they fund to prove efficacy. But antibiotics don’t yield as much revenue as medications for chronic conditions like blood pressure and cholesterol. Patients only take antibiotics for days or weeks, but drugs certain diseases require consumption for months or years. All of this points to less research and clinical trials for antibiotics. 

And from this perspective, drug-resistant antibiotics are completely out of the question. Some companies, like Achaogen, have even filed for bankruptcy from the meager amounts of revenue generated from their antibiotic last year. 

hundreds of pills being spilled out

The Battle Has Just Started

In more than 40 years, TB Alliance’s pretomanid is the third anti-TB drug that the FDA has approved. It’s a three-drug regimen that specifically fights against highly resistant forms of TB. According to the drug company, 95 of its first 107 patients in its clinical trial had a successful outcome. This is in response to six months worth of treatment with the regimen. 

Currently, drug-resistant doctors treat TB patients with an endless amount of pills, but it’s still not on the forefront of the news. Moreover, the World Health Organization reported that more than 120 countries are carrying the disease.

Tuberculosis is a highly contagious disease and coughing and sneezing is the most common way to expose individuals. It’s so powerful that even talking can spread the infection to someone else.

laboratory worker's gloved hands labeling test tubes

A Post-Antibiotic Era

Just like all drugs going to the market, it’s imperative that our governments offer financial incentives for these companies. Drug giants are not motivated to develop an expensive solution to our soon to be “post-antibiotic” era. And though 42 antibiotics are in development as of March 2019, unfortunately many are not addressing infectious diseases.

Because there isn’t a great market for TB drugs, it’s pretty obvious why a nonprofit pursued the cause. While we’ve got a long way to go on combating drug-resistant tuberculosis and the frontier of post-antibiotics altogether, it’s still progress worth noting.

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