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These Drug Companies Are Best Positioned to Fight a ‘Superbug’

January 26, 2018, 3:40 PM UTC

Viruses are getting a lot stronger and antibiotics aren’t always as effective as they used to be. That has led to the World Health Organization to label antibiotic resistance a “global health emergency.” In response, the Access to Medicines Foundation published an index that ranks which drug companies are best positioned to face the threat.

GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ) led the list, which was released Tuesday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. Among generic drug companies, Mylan (MYL) led the pack and among biotechnology companies, Entasis came out on top.

Companies were judged on both having new antibiotics in development and taking measures to prudently use existing treatments. The cleanliness of a company’s manufacturing process was also factored into the rankings.

Johnson & Johnson was lauded for its new antibiotic bedaquiline, which the company only allows to be used to treat drug-resistant tuberculosis. Each year, 250,000 people die from that strain of the disease.

New antibiotics are rare, though. Only 28 are in late stage development right now—and just nine of those are notably different from existing antibiotics.

“That’s a problem,” said Jayasree K. Iyer, executive director of the Access to Medicines Foundation. “We definitely need to strengthen the pipeline.”