Senior Citizens Should Cheer Today’s Initiative to
Combat Deadly Infectious ‘Super Bugs’
Antibiotic-resistant infections kill nearly 100,000
U.S. hospital patients; but while 16 new antibiotics were approved
between 1983 - 1987, only two since 2008
April 7, 2011 – Senior citizens should be cheering
on this World Health Day. The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA)
is rolling out a multi-pronged plan today to combat deadly
antibiotic-resistant “super bugs.” The elderly, generally, are the most
likely to be attacked by these lethal “super bugs,” because they are the
most likely to visit hospitals and clinics where infections are most
often found. Older people also have less resistance to fight the infections.
Infections are becoming increasingly resistant to
existing antibiotics, while the number of new antibiotics being
developed has plummeted.
IDSA warns that unless sweeping actions are taken
now, the future could resemble the days before these miracle drugs were
developed. People will die of common infections and many medical
interventions we take for granted – surgery, chemotherapy, organ
transplantation, and premature infant care – will no longer be possible.
IDSA’s new policy paper, “Combating Antimicrobial
Resistance: Policy Recommendations to Save Lives,” is being released at
a press conference and published in the journal Clinical Infectious
Diseases. The paper is available
“The way we’ve managed our antibiotics for the past
70 years has failed. Antibiotics are a precious resource, like energy,
and we have a moral obligation to ensure they are available for future
generations,” said IDSA President James M. Hughes, MD, FIDSA.
“IDSA has a comprehensive, multifaceted plan to
address this crisis, but time is running out. If such measures are not
implemented now by Congress, federal agencies and health care providers
across the country an increasing number of lives will be devastated and
The incidence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria,
including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA),
Acinetobacter baumannii, Klebsiella, and others has skyrocketed over the
past two decades.
Each year, these infections kill nearly 100,000
U.S. hospital patients and are increasingly affecting healthy people as
well. But while 16 new antibiotics were approved between 1983 and 1987,
only two have been approved since 2008.
The crisis is so dire, the World Health
Organization has made antibiotic resistance the central focus of this
year’s World Health Day, a day held each year to highlight a global
public health issue of critical concern.
The complex problem is caused by several factors.
● Antibiotics are becoming less effective due to
over-prescription and improper use (up to half of antibiotic use is
unnecessary or inappropriate) as well as bacteria’s natural ability to
evolve and develop resistance to antibiotics.
● Treating these resistant bugs costs the U.S.
health care system an estimated $21 billion to $34 billion annually.
● Just when we most urgently need new drugs, a
market failure coupled with lack of clear guidance from the Food and
Drug Administration (FDA) about how to design studies for new
antibiotics has caused research and development (R&D) efforts to slow to
● Drug companies now are shifting their research
dollars to developing drugs that treat chronic conditions, such as
diabetes and high blood pressure. These drugs are less challenging to
bring to market than antibiotics from a regulatory standpoint and are
much more lucrative because they are used for years, rather than days or
weeks, as antibiotics are.
In 1990, there were nearly 20 pharmaceutical
companies with large, strong and active antibiotic R&D programs. Today,
there are just two, and only a small number of companies have more
IDSA supports legislative and administrative action
to address the problem, and two bills, the Strategies to Address
Antimicrobial Resistance (STAAR) Act and the Generating Antibiotic
Incentives Now (GAIN) Act, are good first steps, but IDSA believes they
can do more. To turn the tide, IDSA recommends:
● Creating incentives (and removing economic and
regulatory disincentives) for antibiotic R&D so companies find
developing new antibiotics a viable business endeavor. IDSA’s goal is to
have 10 new systemic antibiotics by 2020, known as the 10 x ’20
initiative. Since the initiative was launched in April 2010, one new
antibiotic has been approved.
● Recalibrating and better communicating FDA’s
requirements for new antibiotic approvals.
● Funding antibiotic R&D efforts under the
Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Biomedical Advanced
Research and Development Authority (BARDA) and proposed independent
strategic investment firm.
● Supporting R&D for rapid diagnostic tests for
use at the point of care to identify the cause of infections more
● Designating a leader within HHS to facilitate
coordination of federal agencies’ efforts and better utilize outside
● Promoting the judicious use of available
antibiotics in all settings (human and agricultural) through better
stewardship programs and infection control practices.
● Creating an Antimicrobial Innovation and
Conservation (AIC) Fee to help pay for drug development and
stewardship. The fee would be charged against the wholesale purchase of
antibiotics used in humans, animals, plants, and aquaculture.
● Strengthening public health measures (e.g.,
surveillance, data collection, immunization) and research that lead to
new interventions to limit the spread of resistant organisms.
● Establishing non-profit Public Private
Partnerships to invest in bringing new antibiotics to market even though
the market may be a small one.
“Infectious diseases specialists around the country
can tell you stories about formerly healthy patients who died because
physicians ran out of antibiotics that worked,” said Brad Spellberg, MD,
FIDSA, associate professor of medicine at the Geffen School of Medicine
at the University of California at Los Angeles, Los Angeles Biomedical
“We’re facing a day in the not-too-distant future
where people will be outraged with our inability to treat infectious
diseases, and wonder why something wasn’t done earlier. The IDSA plan
lays out innovative approaches that can and should be enacted, but they
must be done now. The longer we wait, the bigger and more costly the
problem will become both in terms of lives lost and health care
Learn more about details of the IDSA Combating Antimicrobial
The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA)
says it is an organization of physicians, scientists, and other health
care professionals dedicated to promoting health through excellence in
infectious diseases research, education, patient care, prevention, and
public health. The Society, which has more than 9,000 members, was
founded in 1963 and is based in Arlington, Va. For more information, see
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