Megan McArdle on Antibiotic Drug Resistance
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Resistance is Futile: It's a simultaneously depressing and enlightening article on how the trench warfare between humanity and harmful bacteria is turning steadily in favor of the microbes, as they develop resistance to more antibiotics. 

There are also fewer new antibiotics coming to market, since development costs are high and profits for antibiotics are much less than those of drugs used for chronic diseases.   

Megan captures the problem well:

"When a new antibiotic comes out," Pfizer's Utt says, "physicians don't necessarily use it--they tend to hold it in reserve. So by the time it's being used, it's already used up part of its marketable patent life." As a result, fewer large firms may want to spend the time and money to get these drugs approved--according to the IDSA, only two major drug companies (GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca) still have strong active research programs, down from nearly 20 in 1990. Antibiotics are not big moneymakers: Every time a doctor writes a prescription for Lipitor, Pfizer may gain a customer for decades. But short-course drugs like antibiotics sell perhaps a dozen doses.

More on the problems facing antibiotics drug development in a later post.

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