5 Things to Know About Efforts to Curb Antibiotic Resistance

Growing antibiotic resistance is a significant global problem. But steps are being taken to apply brakes on the rise of "superbugs."

It’s a significant problem around the globe—the development of so-called “superbugs,” deadly bacteria that are resistant to treatment with our most common, and, till recently, successful antibiotics. Overprescription, using antibiotics without testing if an individual has a bacterial or a viral infection, and the lack of innovative antibacterial drug development have contributed to this. But steps are being implemented to curb this dangerous development, including the following:

1. At the beginning of this year, 85 biopharmaceutical and diagnostic companies signed an industry declaration on combating antimicrobial resistance, during the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The declaration was also signed by 9 industry associations from across the global pharmaceutical, diagnostics, and biotechnology industries in 18 different countries. The action points of the declaration include:

  • Reducing the development of drug resistance
  • Increasing investment in research and development that meets global public health needs.
  • Improve access to high-quality antibiotics for all

2. Meanwhile, lawmakers in the United States have vowed to take the antibiotic resistance problem very seriously. Earlier this week, at a hearing organized by the House Energy and Commerce Committee's Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, federal healthcare experts told Congress that funding programs to curb unnecessary prescriptions, speeding up the drug development process, and improving testing to determine whether a patient has a virus or a bacterial infection, can significantly slow down the generation of superbugs. The White House has requested $1.1 billion for fiscal year 2017 for this program.

3. The National Quality Forum (NQF) has developed a tool for hospitals that guides on the use of the right dose of an antibiotic, without contributing to resistance development. The guide developed by NQF, called the Antibiotic Stewardship in Acute Care: A Practical Playbook, follows recommendations by the CDC in its 2014 Core Elements of Hospital Antibiotic Stewardship Programs. “The playbook provides practical strategies to guide the implementation of antibiotic stewardship programs in US hospitals,” said Kathleen Giblin, RN, senior vice president of Quality Innovation at NQF.

4. CMS, on its part, has threatened to eject hospitals from its Medicare program if they fail to adequately manage their use of antibiotics. The proposed rule change to its Conditions of Participation requires hospitals to implement antibiotic stewardship programs in order to qualify for Medicare or Medicaid. Comments on the proposal will be collected till August 15, 2016.

5. Experts believe we need a new business model in the field of antibiotic development—to encourage innovative antibacterial treatments. In an article published in the journal PLOS Medicine, the authors recommend a model that would disconnect rewards from the sale volume of an antibiotic, and thus avoid perverse incentives. A new, out-of-the-box approach could be the solution we need to combat this global burgeoning problem.