The appeal: “Reward new antibiotics like orphan drugs”

The appeal: “Reward new antibiotics like orphan drugs”


In a perfect world, pharmaceutical companies and health authorities would come together to find solutions against the silent pandemic of antibiotic resistance, which currently causes 35 thousand deaths a year in Europe and around 11 thousand in Italy. But in a perfect world, companies should be recognized for their efforts to find new antibiotics capable of defeating increasingly resistant bacteria. Economically. As? “The proposal is to recognize the status of orphan drugs for new antibiotics, which cost a lot in terms of research and development” reasons Lucia Aleotti, shareholder and member of the Menarini board, during the presentation in Florence of the 2023 budget and the trajectory strategy of the Italian pharmaceutical group. Status, echoes the CEO of the Italian company, Elcin Barker Ergun, “for whose recognition we are also working in Europe”.

“Developing drugs against resistant bacteria is a very complicated thing – explained Leotti – and the companies that succeed find themselves faced with authorities who want to limit their use so as not to create new resistance. It is also right, but this way the companies are not incentivized” to do research. And the number of new antibiotics remains limited. Not to mention the deaths then.

Because we are all at risk of antibiotic resistance even if we have never used them extensively. Because they are used in animal husbandry, because they end up in rivers and lakes from sewage outlets with our urine, because some continue to take them after having self-prescribed them.

And so a change of mentality is needed, as already underlined by Marco Cavaleri of the EMA, the European authority, after reporting on a small company that went bankrupt after developing new antibiotics that were purchased and not administered for fear of generating new resistances. Result? Without further orders the company couldn’t make it.

There are many proposals, from economic recognition to companies which must also take into account the social impact on public health of a new drug against antibiotic resistance to the system of Sweden and the UK which have invented a kind of subscription worth 400 thousand euros per year to encourage access to new drugs, in order to guarantee pharmaceutical companies a secure income.

The reward system for companies developing orphan drugs aimed at rare diseases could be another solution. But it’s not enough. “These drugs – continues Leotti – must be used with care, but they must be given. They must be handled and administered at the right time so as not to risk the patient’s life. Because a patient in hospital with an infection needs a new, powerful drug against that superbug And yet we must also recognize its value because otherwise companies are not incentivized to invest. And if the authority, instead of making this area attractive, continues to look at the prices of antibiotics from fifteen years ago then the message to entrepreneurs is not to invest in new antibiotics”.

The group’s results in the USA

The meeting in Florence was an opportunity for the Italian group to reiterate its presence in Oncology, with particular attention to oncohematology and solid tumors, in the cardio-metabolic area and of anti-infectives for complicated diseases of the urinary and intra-abdominal tracts, but also of the skin and skin structures. And to reel off important economic data – such as the 4.3 billion turnover in 2023 – and the intention not to resort to the stock exchange or the banks and to continue investing the profits in the company. Especially after the landing in the USA, one of the most complicated countries, from an industrial and scientific point of view: a landing which in fact made the United States become the second country in terms of weight, after Italy.


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