"Unlike expensive new cancer drugs that extend survival by three to six months, antibiotics like ours really save a patient's life," said Larry Edwards, chairman of the board Company that makes Xerva, Tetraphase Pharmaceuticals. "It is frustrating."
Tetraphase, based in Watertown, Massachusetts, struggled to get hospitals to take over Xerava. It took more than a decade to discover and bring resistant germs to the market, although the drug can defeat resistant germs such as MRSA and CRE, a resistant bacterium that kills 13,000 people annually.
Tetraphase's stock price fluctuated around $ 2 compared to nearly $ 40 a year ago. To reduce costs, Edwards recently closed the company's laboratories, fired around 40 scientists, and abandoned plans for three more promising antibiotics.
The future is even more difficult for Melinta Therapeutics, based in Morristown, New Jersey. Last month, the company's share price fell 45 percent after executives warned of the company's long-term prospects. Melinta manufactures four antibiotics, including Baxdela, who recently won the F.D.A. Authorization to treat the type of drug-resistant pneumonia that hospital patients often die from. Jennifer Sanfilippo, interim executive director of Melinta, said she hoped that a sale or merger would give the company more time to raise awareness of antibiotic value among hospital pharmacists and increase sales.
“These drugs are my babies. and they are so urgently needed, ”she said.
Developing new connections is not an easy task. In the past 20 years, only two new classes of antibiotics have been introduced – most new drugs are variations of the existing ones – and falling financial returns have driven most companies out of the market. In the 1980s, there were 18 large pharmaceutical companies that developed new antibiotics. today there are three.
"Science is tough, really tough," said Dr. David Shlaes, former vice president of Wyeth Pharmaceuticals and board member of the Global Antibiotic Research and Development Partnership, a nonprofit advocacy organization. "And reducing the number of people working on it by giving up antibiotic research and development won't get us anywhere."
Developing a new antibiotic can cost $ 2.6 billion, and most of those costs are the mistakes on the way.