Drug giant GlaxoSmithKline has launched Altargo for the treatment of the skin disease impetigo in the UK, marking the first new topical antibiotic to hit pharmacy shelves in almost ten years.

Impetigo is a contagious skin infection common in children and people who take part in contact sports, and, according to the firm, is the 7th most Googled health condition in the UK. Around 230,000 children under the age of 16 suffer from the condition every year, and the drug is licensed for use in adults and children from nine months of age.

Altargo (retapamulin) is the first in a new class of topical antibiotics called pleuromutilins, which selectively inhibit bacterial protein synthesis. According to GSK, the drug’s distinct mode of action attacks bacteria in four different ways, so there is less of a risk of a patient developing bacterial resistance.

This is important because until now there have only been two topical antibiotics available to treat impetigo, and up to half of patients develop resistance to them. Therefore, the launch of a new treatment option means that doctors can reserve existing treatments for skin infections such as MRSA and use Altargo for impetigo, a representative for the company explained to PharmaTimes UK News.

As Dr Robin Graham-Browne, consultant and honorary senior lecturer in Dermatology at the Leicester Royal Infirmary, stressed: “Resistance to antibiotics is an increasing problem in the UK [and] around one in three patients become resistant to topical antibiotics so we continually have to look for alternative treatments. The availability of a new topical antibiotic it is therefore going to be greatly welcomed in the medical community.”

Reduced dosing
In addition, Altargo offers a further benefit in that is has a fast onset of action and only needs to be administered twice daily as opposed to three times a day, which offers patients a more convenient dosing schedule, the group claims.

“In an area where current treatment options are limited, it’s great to finally have another option for my patients, especially one that’s as efficacious with a shorter dosing regime,” commented Essex GP Dr Jonathan Geldard.