Past, Present, and Future of Antibacterial Economics: Increasing Bacterial Resistance, Limited Antibiotic Pipeline, and Societal Implications

Pharmacotherapy. 2017 Jan;37(1):71-84. doi: 10.1002/phar.1868. Epub 2016 Dec 27.


Growing antimicrobial resistance and a dwindling antibiotic pipeline have resulted in an emerging postantibiotic era, as patients are now dying from bacterial infections that were once treatable. The fast-paced "Golden Age" of antibiotic development that started in the 1940s has lost momentum; from the 1980s to the early 2000s, there was a 90% decline in the approval of new antibiotics as well as the discovery of few new novel classes. Many companies have shifted away from development due to scientific, regulatory, and economic hurdles that proved antibiotic development to be less attractive compared with more lucrative therapeutic areas. National and global efforts are focusing attention toward potential solutions for reinvigorating the antibiotic pipeline and include "push" incentives such as public-private partnerships and "pull" incentives such as reimbursement reform and market exclusivity. Hybrid models of incentives, global coordination among stakeholders, and the appropriate balance of antibiotic pricing, volume of drug used, and proper antimicrobial stewardship are key to maximizing efforts toward drug development to ensure access to patients in need of these therapies.

Keywords: antibacterial; antibiotic; antimicrobial resistance; development; economics; research.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / economics*
  • Anti-Bacterial Agents / therapeutic use
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Cost Control
  • Drug Discovery
  • Drug Resistance, Bacterial
  • Drugs, Generic / economics
  • Insurance, Health, Reimbursement
  • Public-Private Sector Partnerships
  • Research Design


  • Anti-Bacterial Agents
  • Drugs, Generic