Healthcare Business News

Lawmakers back bipartisan effort to fight antibiotic-resistant infections

By Steven Ross Johnson
Posted: May 16, 2014 - 4:15 pm ET

Proposed legislation intended to address the growing rise in antibiotic-resistant infections is being touted by lawmakers on opposite ends of the political isle.

Republican Rep. Peter Roskam, and Democratic Rep. Danny Davis, both of Illinois, held a panel discussion Thursday with clinicians who called on health providers to change their approach to the way infections are diagnosed and managed in order to reduce the use of antibiotics.

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Health experts believe an overuse of antibiotics is what's behind a growth in the number of difficult-to-treat antimicrobial resistant infections in recent years.

“The very tools that we use to cure bacterial infections also feed the problem,” said Dr. Sarah Sutton, medical director of Chicago-based Northwestern Memorial Hospital's Antimicrobial Stewardship Program. “We have to change the mindset that an antibiotic is not the answer to every sniffle and every cough.”

Further compounding the problem has been the lack of development of new antibiotics in recent years. A study released in March by the Pew Charitable Trust found that regulatory and financial issues prevented many companies from investing more into research and development of new drugs.

The analysis found a total of 45 new antibiotics in development as of February, but that there would still be too few new drugs to address the problem of anti-resistant bacteria since some of those in development would either fail or not be approved for market.

In March, Roskam and Davis introduced the Developing an Innovative Strategy for Antimicrobial Resistant Microorganisms Act, which would increase Medicare reimbursements to hospitals that use new high-powered antibiotics. The goal is to encourage companies to increase development of new drugs to combat superbugs.

The legislation would also require hospitals to report drug-resistant bacterial infections and their treatment to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The bill is the latest government effort to address the threat of antimicrobial resistance, which infects an estimated 2 million in the U.S. each year, resulting in 23,000 deaths annually, according to a CDC report released last September.

In December, the Food and Drug Administration issued final guidelines asking pharmaceutical companies to voluntarily begin phasing out the use of antibiotics in animal feed for the purpose of enhancing growth to increase their meat production.

Follow Steven Ross Johnson on Twitter: @MHsjohnson

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