10 Million Lives At Risk As Novartis Abandons Antibiotic Research
The Switzerland-based pharmaceutical company, Novartis, has declared themselves officially out of the antibiotics game. By shutting down its antiviral and antibacterial research programs, the company will lay off 140 employees and “resist” anymore attempts to evolve a dwindling antibiotic market.
“While the science for these programs is compelling, we have decided to prioritize our resources in other areas where we believe we are better positioned to develop innovative medicines that will have a positive impact for patients,” Novartis stated in a company press release.
What Novartis is saying, in reality, is that research into antibiotics, as well as antibiotic production, just don’t pay the bills as it once did.
Infectious disease experts around the globe have interpreted the Novartis announcement as a bad omen for the human shield against the growing threat of superbugs.
But the issue is morally and scientifically complex on a number of levels, including social responsibility.
“The loss of a sustainable research and development pipeline of antibiotics is a significant contributor to the global crisis of antibiotic resistance,” Boucher told Infectious Disease News. “Without a robust and sustainable pipeline of antibiotics to combat infections, especially those caused by resistant bacteria, our patients will suffer, and we may return to an era where it is unsafe to perform surgery, give chemotherapy for cancer, etc.”
Allergan, Sanofi, and AstraZeneca have also cited thinning profit margins as their reasons for exiting the market as well. Allergan, of course, is best known for its Botox product that helps people cosmetically improve their looks (or reduce body odor). The cost to develop a new antibiotic medication is expensive.
The tale of pharmaceutical companies making a mass exodus out of the antibiotic realm leaves a curious trail that might give us somewhat a dismal peak into the future.
First and foremost, I support capitalism. It should be noted that a pharmaceutical company has the right to pull out of any vertical it chooses for any reason it deems to necessitate such a decision. The less profit, the less incentive the company has to produce more of the product or to improve upon the product. Basic economics most certainly applies, even with pharmaceutical companies.
But economics and free market concepts aside, pharmaceutical companies pulling out of the antibiotic game at this juncture may expose more of the reason why the public sentiment towards pharmaceuticals, in general, is that of distrust.
On an annual basis, at least 2 million people worldwide are infected with what’s known as “antibiotic-resistant bacteria.” By some estimates, these superbugs have the potential to kill 10 million among us by 2050. In 2017, a woman died when she contracted a bacteria that resisted 26 various antibiotic regimens.
What’s Caused The Superbug – The Rub
The rub, of course, is exposed when we ask how superbugs came to be a routine threat to modern society. The overprescription of antibiotics, as well as a number of other prescription drugs, is a major reason. In fact, the FDA validates this concept on their website. Antibiotic-resistant superbugs are more than a little capable of spreading a pandemic scenario worldwide.
Doctors were encouraged to prescribe antibiotics such as the famous Z-Pack for a wild number of ailments. Pharmaceutical representatives were consistently dropping off free packs of antibiotics to medical offices for decades, encouraging doctors to prescribe them.
But the overprescription of antibiotics and other prescription medications goes beyond just people, its a problem with farm animals as well. From the farm to the factory to the grocery store and to our tables often comes a dose of antibiotics. In other words, humans all over the world are cultivating an environment of antibiotic resistance whenever we sit down for dinner.
The constant use of hand sanitizers is another likely culprit of antibiotic resistance.
Purell, one of the most popular hand sanitizer brands in the world, claims to “kill 99.99% of common germs in 15 minutes.” Pfizer, as convenience would have it, acquired the full distribution rights of Purell all the way back in 2004. In other words, a massive-scale pharmaceutical company owns the very hand sanitizer that’s contributing to the resistance of antibiotics. In fairness, Pfizer remains in the antibiotic research space. But the dominoes are falling.
When the body is unable to produce good bacteria, the body’s overall immune system is detrimentally affected.
What else tends to result in dire consequences for gut health? The answer is SSRI medications, a line of pharmaceutical antidepressants that are among one of a few types of medications that harm human gut health.
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The Cycle Worked – Until It Didn’t
Believe it or not, antibiotic-resistance was a good thing for pharmaceutical companies for a very long stretch of time. The cycle of bacteria resisting older antibiotics prompting pharmaceutical companies to create more potent versions of antibiotics kept business up.
The fact that antibiotics and hand sanitizer products were creating an exponential issue with superbugs was beneficial to the pharmaceutical industry. That is until the profits ran out. That is until SSRI medications and vaccines became a more profitable route.
Antibiotics, much like vaccines, were widely received as global saviors in their earliest days. But then more and more of them came to be and people got sicker. Greed took over and overprescription and complete misuse caused an antibiotic apocalypse.
Now, pharmaceutical companies want out. The heat in the kitchen is too hot. So the rest of society is left holding the bag.
OF course, lazy and inept doctors are a major contributor to this situation as well. And it is important that we levy some blame to parents who consistently ran to the doctor over their kid’s every little ailment to pick up more antibiotics. And to the thousands of corporate offices around the country that put up hand sanitizer dispensers at all of their entries.
In 2018, Congress allotted $168 million to the CDC’s efforts to “contain superbugs.” Additionally, the CDC now attempts to regulate the misuse and overprescription of antibiotics. It would seem they are late to the party.
Antibiotic Resistance – Another Broken Trust Between People and Pharma
Anti-vaxxers, as they are commonly termed, are often labeled as conspiracy theorists for believing that vaccines are harmful. Some believe clear science exist over the matter, however, many just don’t trust pharmaceutical companies that they now see as following similar trendlines from past endeavors such as SSRIs and antibiotics.
Vaccine production is way up. Like penicillin to antibiotics, we aren’t just talking about a polio vaccine anymore. Worse more, vaccines and SSRI medications, are profitable.
This all translates to a trend being a more powerful motivator than any clear science. In other words, mistrust in the vaccine and SSRI medications is often derived from people looking at the collapse of antibiotics as an example of past failures. SSRIs, one of the most prescribed medications in the world, has now been shown to dangerous to human health and highly addictive.
Ailments such as depression, anxiety, HPV, measles, chicken pox, and obsessive-compulsive disorder are all big money makers. Superbugs, well, not so much.
What this ultimately says is that pharmaceutical companies will ride a profit train until the profits can’t be milked anymore. At that juncture, they abandon any semblance of social responsibility.
Pharmaceutical companies are abandoning the superbug dilemma. They’ve found greener pastures with HPV and depression. Companies which often advertise to use using herd moral conscious themes have shown to only be in the game for profits.
The science is clear to people on both sides of the vaccine issue. Some support them unquestionably, some deny them their legitimacy. However, hardly anyone is not contending that without enough revenue, the rug underneath vaccines would be pulled. The social and moral conscious involving vaccines would vanish into thin air.
Socialism and Pharma’s Contributory Demise
This entire issue gets even more complicated when we consider the beneficial evolutionary sliding scales of capitalism. Often, articles such as this one get labeled as being intentionally obtuse to pharmaceutical contributions over history.
Socialized medicine is proof that medical evolutions would slow down dramatically. The more socialized the system becomes, the more we tax big corporations and people to death, the less innovation occurs. Slowed innovation in the medical and pharmaceutical fields could most certainly have some tragic side effects.
There are lots of medications and medical procedures that have saved lives, we can’t deny such things. These are innovations which have all been achieved in an environment of wide-open capitalistic values.
The confusion comes into play when pharmaceutical companies, often with support from the media and government, assert themselves under the guise of philanthropy. The nature of this narrative leads many to feel socially compelled to support their sector growths. But the two concepts become completely transparent when we look to the past.
When a medication is profitable, there will be a sudden rash of new ailments needing treatment by that field of medications.
When the field of medications becomes less profitable, pharmaceutical companies will cease innovative research into the field.
We don’t want to stop the pharmaceutical industry from innovating, but we do want to see them for what they are: a business that’s driven 100% on profits and will create any advertising narrative they can to achieve the highest of profits possible. Within some of this, typically the early stages of discovery, good things happen. It’s typically the late stages of mass production that we need to concern ourselves with.
Leave us a comment below, do you trust pharmaceutical companies with your health?
Photo by University of Hawaii – West Oahu
Author: Jim Satney
PrepForThat’s Editor and lead writer for political, survival, and weather categories.