Merck launches new antibiotic in the UK
Merck has launched the first new drug in a class of antibiotics in the UK in almost 15 years, becoming one of the only big pharma firms to return to this high-priority disease area.
Sivextro (tedizolid phosphate) is the first oral treatment to be released in the oxazolidinone class of antibiotics since 2001. It is approved to treat acute bacterial skin and skin structure infections (ABSSSI).
These infections can often be caused by the MRSA superbug, which is a major factor in the growing problem of antimicrobial resistant (AMR) bacteria.
“AMR is a global problem and the importance of the introduction of new antibacterials, such as Sivextro, cannot be overestimated,” says Professor Jonathan Cooke of the department of medicine, infectious diseases and immunity at Imperial College London.
“New antimicrobial agents and their optimal use through antimicrobial stewardship programmes are key to ensuring patients receive the best treatment for the right condition at the right time, which is in line with the UK AMR Strategy.”
A report commissioned by the UK government has suggested that AMR could kill over 10 million people worldwide a year by 2050 if alternative treatments are not found.
But big pharma firms have been accused of largely been ignoring antibiotics over the past few decades in favour of more profitable treatment areas. A recent Government-backed report called for a $2 billion global fund to be established to incentivise the development of new antibiotics.
Derek Butler, the chair of the charity MRSA Action UK, says: “I hope that this will be the start of things to come. We need pharmaceutical companies, governments, those providing healthcare and the public to all play their part in using these new treatments wisely. However, there is still a way to go to bring about the change in a culture that has relied too heavily on these golden bullets.”
AMR will be a key topic on the agenda of the G7 summit of world leaders, taking place in June in Schloss Elmau, Germany. Last month the UK Government announced £3 million in funding to help support developing countries to tackle AMR, at the same time as the World Health Organisation’s World Health Assembly in Geneva formally adopted a Global Action Plan against antimicrobial resistance.
Sivextro was originally developed by Cubist, which was acquired by Merck in December 2014 in a $9.5 billion deal. Cubist’s goal is to release at least four new antibiotics by 2020, and it hopes that this will double its 2012 global revenues to $2 billion by 2017.
Its biggest-selling drug is the antibiotic Cubicin (daptomycin), which is marketed by Novartis in the EU. Another of its antibiotics, Zerbaxa (ceftolozane/tazobactam), was approved by the FDA last year for urinary tract or intra-abdominal infections caused by certain kinds of bacteria, and is currently under review by the EMA.
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