'Get Smart' About New Solutions to Antibiotic Resistance

    • November 18, 2010

Antibiotic effectiveness is a shared global resource: Abuse of antibiotics anywhere affects the ability of others to use antibiotics everywhere.

Methicillin-resistant Staphyloccus areus (MRSA)—a highly resistant bacterial infection—now appears in 32 out of every 100,000 patients in U.S. hospitals. Drug-resistant infections kill tens of thousands of Americans each year. Antibiotic resistance is a growing public health threat that, left unaddressed, could diminish society’s ability to fight diseases that are now treatable with modern medicine. And every few years there are reports of new microbes that can evade our most commonly used antibiotics.

Though antibiotic resistance cannot be prevented entirely, there are promising solutions that would slow the rapid spread of resistant bacteria. On Monday, November 15, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) launched its "Get Smart for Healthcare" campaign which urges health care providers to curb the unnecessary use of antibiotics, a practice that significantly contributes to antibiotic resistance.

The CDC has partnered with others on the "Get Smart" campaign to spark broader awareness on the issue including Extending the Cure (ETC), a project funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation that develops and evaluates policy solutions to the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.

Arjun Srinivasan, Medical Director for CDC’s "Get Smart for Healthcare" campaign, and Ramanan Laxminarayan, Director of Extending the Cure co-authored a blog post about the campaign in the Health Care Blog. The authors call on hospitals, healthcare facilities, and pharmaceutical companies to engage in better stewardship of these drugs. Dr. Srinivasan also posted a guest post on ETC’s blog.

An op-ed in The Boston Globe this week proposed an innovative solution to one aspect of the problem: compensation for the developers of new antibiotics should be connected to doing as much as possible to avoid overuse and overselling these drugs. Authors Aaron Kesselheim of Harvard Medical School and Kevin Outterson of Boston University, both of whom have been studying this topic with support from the RWJF Public Health Law Research program, argue this will "preserve the power of antibiotics so that these drugs will still work in the future." They suggest pricing new antibiotics at a higher level that better reflects their value and implementing incentive-based policies that ensure that antibiotics are not oversold and their usefulness undermined.