The Economics of Antibiotic Resistance
Drug discovery is big business with oftentimes questionable ethics. Nowhere is that more true than in the world of antibiotics. Older drugs are fast losing their ability to fight disease, and we’re in dire need of new antibiotic treatments — but a strange brew of evolutionary and economic forces makes it unlikely that companies will pursue new drugs to fight back.
The solution, according to an essay published this week in PLoS Medicine, is to decouple antibiotic sales from research and development — basically, to find a new way to fund drug research while, at least to some extent, discouraging sales. But sorting out the details is going to take some hard work, even if drug companies get on board with the basic idea.
The current business model for antibiotics is plagued by market failures and perverse incentives that both work against [efforts to maintain drugs’ effectiveness] and provide insufficient rewards to drive the development of much-needed new treatments for resistant infection,” writes a team led by Boston University law professor Kevin Outterson, who specializes in health law and intellectual property.
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