For the first time in 50 years healthcare professionals have access to a new weapon in the fight against Clostridium difficile, following the rollout of Astellas' Dificlir across the UK.

Approved in Europe in December last year, Dificlir (fidaxomicin) is a first-in-class macrocyclic antibiotic indicated for the treatment of the hospital superbug C. difficile, which can cause severe diarrhoea and even death.

Clinical trials of the drug have shown that it has a similar efficacy and safety profile to that of the current gold standard of treatment, vancomycin, however, it almost halved the rate of recurrence of the disease.

And it is this added advantage that could really set Dificlir apart from its rivals, given that recurrence occurs in up to a quarter of patients within 30 days of first being treated with current therapies, posing a significant problem in managing the disease not to mention an extra financial burden on already stretched resources.

In 1996, a UK study suggested that infection with C. difficile was responsible for an additional 21 days of hospital stay per patient, generating an additional per-patient expenditure of £4,107, a company spokesperson told PharmaTimes UK News.

Indeed, latest figures from the 2010/11 Department of Health Impact Assessment Report for C. difficile infection estimate that each episode of the disease costs around £10,000, whilst five-year incidence data to last year suggest readmissions due to recurrence or reinfection involve an additional 12.2 bed days, highlighting the scope of the problem.

Different action 

While Dificlir - which works by actually killing the bacteria instead of the more traditional route of preventing its growth - is designed to help address this issue, it doesn't come cheap, with a price tag of £135 per treatment day (usually around 10 days in total) compared to £5–£13 per day for oral vancomycin.

"Nonetheless, whilst upfront drug investment increases with use of fidaxomicin over oral vancomycin, there is a significant decrease in hospitalisation costs due to potentially decreased recurrence admission spells," the spokesperson stressed to PT.