Antibiotic resistance is now being recognized as a major health crisis that requires an intensely focused action plan. The antibiotic sector had been largely ignored for decades as pharmaceutical companies focused their research efforts on the lucrative chronic disease markets. Of late, however, the sector is witnessing renewed interest and investment, which are leading to much-needed innovation.
A recent report by BCC Research estimates that the global antibacterial market will grow from $42 billion in 2009 to $66 billion by 2014 at a compound average growth rate (CAGR) of 9.6%. Conventional antibiotics such as cephalosporins, fluoroquinolones, penicilins, and macrolids together account for 70% of the market, even though many of these classes are becoming ineffective against resistant strains.
Bacterial vaccines are also showing promising future growth trends. The BCC study estimates the value of the sector at $3.9 billion in 2009, accounting for 9% of the total market. Several new multivalent vaccines are in advanced stages of development. The bacterial vaccines sector is expected to grow at a CAGR of 31.6% to $15.5 billion by 2014.
The reasons for our current predicament are multifaceted. Over the years, several routes to fight bacteria have been explored and abandoned as bacteria have developed resistance to the treatments. The huge investment required to develop new antibiotic classes is often difficult to justify as the resistance issues often limit the long-term potential of new drugs. Moreover, efforts to contain antibiotic resistance can themselves limit the market potential of new antibiotics since new antibiotic classes are often prescribed cautiously.
There are a few antibacterials in the pipeline that may offer benefits over existing drugs. This is good news as immediate action plans are needed for the six pathogens collectively known as ESKAPE—Enterococcus faecium, Staphylococcus aureus, Klebsiella pneumoniae, Acinetobacter baumannii, Pseudomonas aeruginosa, and Enterobacter species.