The announcement last week that antibiotic maker Melinta had descended into Chapter 11 bankruptcy highlighted the problems facing the antibiotic industry, as well as the danger corporate issues could cast over medication availability.
Melinta was the second antibiotic producer to file for bankruptcy this year. Its reasons were a failure to make sufficient return on investment for its medicines — four infection-fighting drugs. Such antibiotics, the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) warns, are already limited, and closure or production halts could throw supply into doubt.
Melinta has reported intentions to remain open following restructuring.
The issue is the nature of the drugs Melinta and companies like it produce. According to IDSA, these antibiotics tend to be used infrequently, over a short period or held in reserve. While good for users, this does not make for quick profits, meaning that investors are more likely to balk at supporting them and casting the entire structure of antibiotic research and development in the private sector into doubt.
“This bankruptcy underscores the need for swift federal government support and incentives to ensure the availability of effective antibiotics,” IDSA said in a statement.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that 2.8 million illnesses and 34,000 deaths to infections that are no longer treated effectively by existing medicines. Such antibiotic resistance has proven a global threat, but a lack of successful new research and development efforts means that even well-developed nations like the United States are vulnerable.
As a means to correct this, IDSA has called for passage of the Developing an Innovative Strategy for Antimicrobial Resistant Microorganisms — DISARM – Act (S.1712), a bill that would reform Medicare reimbursement for new antibiotics. This, in turn, could stabilize a volatile market while supporting drug development, preserve effective existing medicines, and improve patient access to new drugs. To supplement such reforms, IDSA has also called for greater federal investment in research and development efforts, alongside stewardship and surveillance initiatives.