Every year, an estimated 700,000 deaths are attributed to superbugs, microbials that are resistant to antibiotics due to overuse. These numbers are expected to only grow – towards 10 million a year, or 1 every 3 seconds, with comparisons of medicine being sent back to the Dark Ages by 2050. The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance has come forward with steps hoping to prevent this, such as setting up a global fund for early stage research, campaigns to alert the public, and incentives for companies who find new antibiotics. Steps would also need to be taken to prevent the root cause: the unnecessary prescription of drugs as a first response rather than the last. This profit-driven practice has allowed for the microbials to develop an immunity, and allows for themselves to evolve into a stronger, more lethal version of themselves.
Superbugs are already popping up in the United States, with a Pennsylvania woman just last month being treated for a strand of E. coli resistant to even last resort antibiotics. It is from a family of bacteria known as CRE and dubbed as the Nightmare Bacteria, which kill up to 50 percent of patients who become infected.
Pharmaceutical companies are some of the most profitable in the world, with companies like Johnson & Johnson raking in over $70 billion with a 19 percent profit margin, and Pfizer with over $50 billion and a mind boggling 43 percent profit margin. These companies and all others like them have not developed a new antibiotic class in over 3 decades. Developing and testing such drugs takes huge amounts of time and money, and most companies either will not or cannot. Encouraging the capable companies who already profit on current medications in some cases has always been an uphill battle.