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There is a critical need for new antibiotics to combat the rising tide of infections in this country. About 70% of all health care-associated infections (HAIs) are resistant to at least one drug, say Centers for Disease Control & Prevention officials. Compounding the matter is that about a half million health care-associated surgical site infections occur annually, adding $3,000 to the cost of care for infected patients. Guidelines released last year by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and the National Surgical Infection Prevention Project call for the appropriate use of prophylactic antibiotics to reduce the number of those infections.
However, many pharmaceutical companies have reduced their research and development budget for antibiotics, citing cost. "Pharmaceutical companies appear to be more interested in developing drugs that patients take for life, such as those used to treat hypertension or arthritis," said Brad Spellberg, M.D., of the Research and Education Institute and Department of Medicine at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center in Torrance, Calif., who has studied the issue as a member of IDSA. A few antibiotics are in the drug company pipelines, according to pharmaceutical company officials and IDSA. These include: