Group urges Congress to help spur discovery of new antibiotics

Drug companies should get tax breaks and other incentives that would encourage them to re-enter the field of antibiotics research, an infectious disease specialist group said this week. The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), a group of 8,000 physicians and scientists promoting infectious diseases research, is trying to focus Congressional attention on the dearth of new antibiotics. The growing problem of drug-resistant infections underscores the need for new antimicrobial drugs, it said in an article appearing in this week's journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. IDSA also released a “Hit List” of what it calls the six top-priority "superbugs" -- drug-resistant microbes for which few or no new drugs are being developed. The list includes methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA). The journal article provides an update on the state of antimicrobial R&D since IDSA initiated its "Bad Bugs, No Drugs" campaign in 2004. The antimicrobial pipeline has a few more entrants. “But the germs that are the biggest problems are not the ones getting the most attention from the major pharmaceutical companies,” says George H. Talbot, MD, article lead author. Many big drug companies have pulled out of anti-infectives research largely due to the relatively low return on investment to develop new antibiotics, the article says. IDSA endorsed H.R. 3154, which would offer incentives such as tax credits, patent extensions and fast-track approvals for several infectious-disease threats, including MRSA and others. However, the bill's fate is unclear, The Wall Street Journal reports, as there is resistance on Capitol Hill to giving drug companies such incentives.