Monday, 24 September 2018

What Is the Link Between Pharma and Super Bugs?

Super bugs — antibiotic-resistant bacteria and viruses — are making an appearance in the news more and more often. These conditions were once treatable with the application of antibiotics, but new mutations have caused these bacteria and viruses to be resistant to those traditional applications. While mutations do occur in nature, these mutations aren't natural.

A guest post by Megan Ray Nichols

So, what is the link between Big Pharma and the creation of these super bugs?

Pharmaceutical Pollution

Pharmaceutical pollution is a bigger problem than most companies want to acknowledge. One study that looked into the waste created by pharmaceutical companies in India found that both antibiotics and anti-fungal drugs could be found in high amounts in the water supply around the factories. The study postulates that the drugs originated at the pharmaceutical factories in the area.

The presence of these drugs in the natural environment allows the microbes to build up a resistance to the drugs. So, when they re-encounter the drugs during treatment from a medical professional, the drug doesn't work.

This can turn otherwise treatable infections into fatal ones — and more of the world is starting to experience these drug-resistant infections more often than ever before.

Incomplete Guidelines

Pharmaceutical manufacturers are held to strict standards when it comes to creating new medications for the global marketplace. Each company is held to the Good Manufacturing Practices guidelines outlined by Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These guidelines act as strict quality control for the production of drugs and other medical implements, but the one thing these guidelines don't cover is pollution.

There is a breakdown in communication when it comes to pollution pharmaceutical industries generate. The international groups that are in charge of regulating the pharmaceutical industry have stated it is the responsibility of the countries where the drugs are being produced to regulate the pollution those factories are generating, but that's where communication breaks down. The countries are demanding international regulation for pharmaceutical pollution, and have argued that the lack of rules is the international community refusing to acknowledge the rampant threat that the lack of overall regulation has created. 

Increased Antibiotic Usage

Both humans and animals are using more antibiotics than ever before. It's estimated that human antibiotic use has climbed 36 percent in the last century. By 2030, upwards of 69 percent of livestock will be treated with antibiotics. In aquaculture, nearly 75 percent of the antibiotics used to treat the fish and other aquatic crops end up leaking into the surrounding environment.

The increase in antibiotic usage has allowed bacteria and viruses that wouldn't usually come into contact with antibiotics to develop a resistance to these treatments. Once that happens, the treatments that would typically heal the disease can no longer do their job.

Broken Promises

When super bugs first started to make an appearance in first-world countries, many pharmaceutical companies began to make promises that they would research these multi-drug resistant bugs and find a way to combat them without compromising the efficacy of current antibiotic based treatments.

As of August 2018, only 12 new antibiotics have been approved, and five of the main pharmaceutical companies that made those promises have abandoned their research into the MDR bacteria and viruses.

Super bugs are a big problem, and the lack of regulation of pharmaceutical waste — as well as the insufficient amount of research into these bugs — is causing the problem to get even bigger. The first step toward fixing this issue is the regulation of the pharmaceutical waste industry. Once the factories stop pouring waste into the surrounding environment, the dilemma of the super bug will be easier to address.

Pharmaceutical Microbiology Resources - antibiotics

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