Last Thursday, Public Citizen joined partners in the Antibiotic Resistance Coalition in releasing a declaration on the dire threats posed by antibiotic resistance and urgent steps that must be taken to avert its dangers.
Additionally, the coalition called on World Health Organization member states to pass a critical resolution calling for measures to combat antimicrobial resistance, including antibiotic resistance, at the 67th World Health Assembly.
The implications of the growing trend of antibiotic resistance are frightening, to say the least. Human beings rely on antibiotics for treatment of the most basic bacterial infections. Without effective antibiotics, most surgery, organ transplantation and chemotherapy would be impossible. The growing trend of antibiotic resistance is making that possibility all too real.
A number of factors are fueling the acceleration of antibiotic resistance. Inadequate regulation allows industrial food producers to inappropriately give animals antibiotics as a matter of routine – both to artificially stimulate animal growth and as substitute for following hygienic practices. Financial incentives without adequate regulatory restraints encourage the pharmaceutical industry to promote overuse and irrational use of antibiotics. Stewards of global health, including the World Health Organization, have so far failed to provide the leadership necessary for combatting this threat.
The current model for incentivizing development of new, innovative antibiotics relies on patent monopolies. Under this model, pharmaceutical companies seek to maximize profits by charging exorbitant costs, which prevents people with limited resources from gaining access to treatment. At the same time, this incentive structure encourages companies to get as many people to buy the medicine at high cost as they can – leading to unnecessary use that accelerates the trend of antibiotic resistance. The GAIN Act, enacted in the United States in 2012, only serves to exacerbate these problems by providing an additional five years of market exclusivity for antibiotics. Furthermore, the monopoly-based incentive structure is failing to adequately advance innovation. Few new antibiotics are being developed despite the growing need as resistance to existing antibiotics increases.
Urgent action is needed by governments and international bodies to increase public awareness, slow the development of resistance, increase innovation of new antibiotics and provide access to antibiotics for those in need – regardless of a patient’s resources. The coalition’s recommendations include prohibiting the promotion and advertising of antibiotics and promoting open research and development models that de-link research and development costs from sales.
Check out our webpage for more information and resources about antibiotic resistance.