By Brian Vastag, Published: August 24
As doctors battled a deadly, drug-resistant superbug at the National Institutes of Health’s Clinical Center last year, they turned to an antibiotic of last resort.
But colistin, as it’s called, is not a fancy new creation of modern biotechnology. It was discovered in a beaker of fermenting bacteria in Japan — in 1949.
hat doctors have resorted to such an old, dangerous drug — colistin causes kidney damage — highlights the lack of new antibiotics coming out of the pharmaceutical pipeline even in the face of a global epidemic of hospital-acquired bugs that quickly grow resistant to the toughest drugs.
It’s a case of evolution outrunning capitalism.
Between 1945 and 1968, drug companies invented 13 new categories of antibiotics, said Allan Coukell, director of medical programs at the Pew Health Group.
Between 1968 and today, just two new categories of antibiotics have arrived.
In 2011, the Food and Drug Administration approved one new antibiotic, which fights one of the many bacteria, Clostridium difficile, causing deadly hospital-borne infections.