No major new type of antibiotic has been developed since the late 1980s, according to the W.H.O. From 2011 to 2013, the Food and Drug Administration approved only three new molecular entities to combat bacterial diseases — the lowest rate since the 1940s. “No sane company will develop the next antibiotic,” said Michael S. Kinch, who led a team at the Yale Center for Molecular Discovery tracking the evolution of pharmaceutical innovation over the last two centuries.
Antibiotics face a daunting proposition. They are not only becoming more difficult to develop, but they are also not obviously profitable. Unlike, say, cancer drugs, which can be spectacularly expensive and may need to be taken for life, antibiotics do not command top dollar from hospitals. What’s more, they tend to be prescribed for only short periods of time.