The vicious circle of antibiotics market decay explained

15 December 2020

Global antibiotic stewardship measures are critical in our fight against antibiotic resistant bacteria. These well-intended measures, however, have played a prominent role in the breakdown of the antibiotics market. 

The antibiotic stewardship strategy of strictly monitoring and limiting the use of antibiotics had a negative impact on the state of the antibiotics market. It amplified the innate challenges of investing in antibiotics development. 

By definition, antibiotics are not the most attractive drug for investors due to their short prescription period and their tendency to lose usefulness due to resistance building in bacterial strains. This problem is exacerbated by strict antibiotic stewardship, which resulted in many novel antibiotics being shelved in an attempt to prevent the development of resistance and have a backup for emergency use. As a consequence, return on investment for antibiotics development gradually decreased, thereby bankrupting many small to medium-size companies and large pharmaceutical companies abandoning the field.

The exodus of active players in the antibiotics field and the subsequent lack of novel antibiotic compounds has led to a further increase of our dependence on ‘older’ compounds and derivatives of trusted antibiotics. Together with the ongoing misuse and overuse of antibiotics in many territories, this amplifies the rise of antimicrobial resistance. 

Policymakers have no choice but to further tighten and expand the antibiotic stewardship measures that are in place. To break this cycle, incentives need to be put in place that fairly rewards antibiotics development without a dependency on sales quantities.

Contributors: Jelle Eikelhof, MSc, Pleuni Hooijman, PhD, & Christopher Haggarty-Weir, MRSB, MRSC, PhD, MBA

“At ttopstart we are motivated to spread awareness of the unintended effects of antibiotics and find ways to fix the vicious cycle of antibiotics market decay.”