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Are we losing the war against bacterial disease The past 35 years have seen only one new class of bacteria-fighting drugs come to market and a solo entrant at that--Pfizers Zyvox Medicine needs new antibiotics more than ever Drug-resistant strains of everything from tuberculosis to staphylococcus are killing tens of thousands of patients every year Penicillin is now useless against one-third of all Streptococcus pneumoniae a common cause of pneumonia meningitis and ear infections The cost of treating resistant infections may be as much as 30 billion annually There are a number of organisms where were one antibiotic away from a worldwide disaster says Hank A McKinnell chief executive of Pfizer Current classes of antibiotics often have side effects including changes in heart rhythm and liver toxicity The main reason In order to kill bacteria they must be present in blood concentrations 1000 times greater than other drugs according to Peter Goodfellow senior vice president of discovery research at GlaxoSmithKline Glaxo is trying to come up with a new antibiotic to replace its Augmentin but has no new blockbuster on the market yet Aventis the only bid dfug firm claiming to have a new class of antibiotic thats likely to win approval soon is still held up after a two-year regulatory delay But Catherine J Arnold an analyst at Bernstein says she is worried that all concerns about liver and safety have not been put to rest even after a 24000-patient safety-and-efficacy trial Faced with such obstacles many big drug companies have surrendered the work to small biotechs which fortunately are getting approval for new versions of older drugs and moving the science forward GeneSoft Pharmaceuticals a privately held firm in South San Francisco won approval from the Food Drug Administration in April for Factive a quinoline pill akin to Cipro for treating lower respiratory infections Cubist Pharmaceuticals in Lexington Mass Is waiting for approval on Cidecin an injection for treating hospital-acquired skin
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