Withholding widespread use of some new antibiotics until the outbreak of a major pandemic could be a beneficial economic and medical strategy, a new study in Health Economics suggests.
An international research team developed a mathematical framework to estimate the value of developing and conserving a novel antibiotic to mitigate the burden of bacterial infections caused by resistant Staphylococcus aureus during a hypothetical pandemic influenza outbreak based on UK preparedness plan assumptions. They noted that secondary bacterial infections have been responsible for a significant proportion of deaths in previous pandemics, with a dearth of new antibiotics developed in this century amid growing antimicrobial resistance.
The researchers found that the value of withholding an effective novel oral antibiotic could be positive and significant, unless the pandemic was mild and caused few secondary infections with the resistant strain, or if most patients could be treated intravenously.
Further analysis on a case-by-case basis could guide investment in novel antibiotics as well as strategies on how to use them, according to the researchers.
Study lead author Dr Itamar Megiddo said: “Secondary infections caused by a significant influenza pandemic today could be catastrophic. If we wait until no options are available before deciding to invest in novel drugs we may be too late.”