- WASHINGTON (Reuters) - More than 100 new drugs are in the works to fight
infections by bacteria, viruses and fungi -- but people have to realize
no drug is ever a magic bullet against microbes, a U.S. drug manufacturer's
group said Monday. The drugs range from new compounds designed to fight
''superbugs'' that have evolved to resist antibiotics, to existing AIDS
drugs that have shown some promise against other viruses such as hepatitis
or herpes, to new vaccines. According to the Pharmaceutical Research and
Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), which lobbies on behalf of drug companies,
136 different drugs made by 78 different companies are in development for
use against infections. Not all are completely new, said Dr. John Siegfried,
senior medical officer at PhRMA. ``The things that excite me are conceptual
things such as being able to give a flu vaccine by a nasal spray and what
that can mean in terms of going into nursing homes and schools and being
able to vaccinate larger populations,'' he said.
Siegfried was describing Aviron's FluMist, which has been submitted to
the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval. ``I see vaccines for
cervical cancer and I say wow,'' Siegfried added -- a reference to vaccines
in the works against genital warts, the most common cause of cervical cancer.
They include products by Cantab, SmithKline Beecham, Merck and MedImmune.
Siegfried says great hope is offered to millions of tuberculosis sufferers
by PathoGenesis Corp.'s rifalazil, a TB drug now in Phase II clinical trials
that the company says may eradicate infection in two weeks, as opposed
to six months for existing tuberculosis drugs. ``I think, my lord, what
that could mean in terms of TB as a threat to world health,'' he said.
``Because part of the problem (is that) the treatment of tuberculosis is
such a long time of treatment that you really have to have a dedicated
patient population.'' Tuberculosis evolves drug-resistant forms when patients
do not take their full course of medicine, as do other bugs. Some of the
most common bacteria, such as streptococci and staphylococci, have mutated
strains that resist even the most advanced antibiotics.
This scares doctors, not least because it takes years to develop new drugs.
On PhRMA's list is Eli Lilly's LY33328, which is designed to fight such
superbugs. Lilly says it is similar to vancomycin, the current last line
of defense, but seems to kill bacteria better. The company does not quite
understand how but has the drug in Phase II clinical trials. Drugs meant
to fight the HIV virus that causes AIDS are not on the list, but several
have been found to fight other viruses as well. These include Glaxo-Wellcome's
Epivir, which is up for FDA approval for use against hepatitis B. But Siegfried
warned that people should not rely solely on drugs. ``While it's wonderful
that we have all these products coming along, unless we have education
of the public and a change in our behavior, to simply bring more antibiotics
on the market means more drug resistance,'' he said. ``These are gifts
to humanity and they need to be treated with respect. If we abuse them,
as we have in the past, it will not move us further ahead.'' Scientists
say drug-resistant bugs evolved because people over-use antibiotics, use
them inappropriately, and fail to use them correctly. ``The answer to infectious
disease is not antibiotics and antivirals. It is healthy living,'' Siegfried