David's New Book

Sunday, May 4, 2014

A Week of Irony


It has been a big week on the antibiotics front. First, some detail on what Astrazeneca thinks they are doing on antibiotics.  I have no idea.  In a teleconference with analysts, their CEO stated that their goal for the infectious disease unit is “partnership” not sale. But other news statements seem to indicate that they are selling the business including meropenem, a generic antibiotic that still sells well. I’m not sure if they are talking about two separate deals, one for meropenem (sale) and one for their pipeline (partnership) or what.  Maybe someone from AZ can sort this out for me and my readers. As I mentioned last week, partnership will be complicated by the recent merger between Forest and Actavis.  The future of this pipeline, in my view, is essential to being able to treat at least some of the highly resistant infections that we encounter with increasing frequency.

On top of this, Pfizer, a company that abandoned antibiotics just a few years ago, continues to pursue AZ (who seems to want to give up on antibiotics) and may now proceed to a hostile takeover bid. History teaches us that when Pfizer wants something, in this case protection from US corporate tax rates and an attractive AZ oncology pipeline, nothing stops them from getting it – just ask Warner-Lambert. This is not going to be good for research in general and it may devastate antibiotics research at a time when we most need new antibiotics.

Along those lines, the WHO released their report on antimicrobial resistance this week.  Their report emphasizes a number of things including resistance in TB, HIV, malaria, influenza, and last but not least, ordinary bacterial pathogens. The WHO notes especially the rising incidence of resistance in various world regions.  They caution that the pipeline for dealing with resistant infections, especially those caused by Gram negative pathogens, is relatively dry.  A brief excerpt from the report is shown below (click to enlarge).




So, here we are. We have a company with a promising pipeline for the treatment of resistant Gram negative infections, an impending public health calamity – especially in certain regions of the world (including various areas of the US) caused by resistant infections, and the company will either be taken over by one hostile to antibiotics or the company itself may abandon some or all of its pipeline.

I’m waiting for a white knight – Roche – are you still there? – to come along and pull us all out of this mess.  Apparently it is unlikely to be either AZ or Pfizer!