An antimicrobial is an agent (natural, semisynthetic, synthetic in origin) that kills or inhibits the growth of microorganisms. Antimicrobials have saved millions of lives, and made procedures such as common surgeries, cancer treatments and organ transplants possible. However, over the past several decades, the growth of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has left doctors without the tools they need to treat resistant infections, pushing us close to the edge of a post-antimicrobial era. AMR threatens the effective prevention and treatment of a range of infections caused by bacteria, parasites, viruses and fungi, posing an urgent threat to our nation and the world.
If nothing is done, experts predict AMR will kill 10 million people per year worldwide – more than currently die from cancer – by the year 2050.
This resistance crisis is exacerbated by the fact that the number of new antimicrobials developed and approved has decreased significantly over the past three decades, leaving fewer options for the treatment of resistant bacteria. Due to increasing economic and regulatory obstacles our nation's scientific community has shifted its attention away from the development of new antimicrobials that could combat these infections.
As of now, only 3 of the top 50 pharmaceutical companies in the world are still developing or studying antimicrobials, and over 90% of the products in
development are being studied by smaller companies. The current market and regulatory climates make it extremely difficult for these small companies (more than half of which are considered pre-revenue) to attract the necessary levels of investment in order to fund the scientific research and development
required to produce these new products.
Furthermore, the current Medicare reimbursement system creates a financial disincentive that discourages hospitals from prescribing newer, more innovative medicines.
AMR is currently present in every country of the world and presents a global, public health threat. In the United States, more than 2,800,000 people acquire resistant infections each year, at least 35,000 of whom die as a result. In May of 2016, doctors discovered the first domestic case of a bacterial infection resistant to Colistin, an antibiotic of last resort used when other antibiotics fail. The Director of the CDC warns that we should expect more cases to be discovered. Drug resistant infections currently cost the United States an estimated $20 billion in excess healthcare costs and $35 billion due to lost productivity. Worldwide, more than 700,000 people die from resistant infections each year.
If nothing is done, experts predict AMR will kill 10,000,000 people a year worldwide – more than currently die from cancer – by the year 2050. The crisis will affect everyone. Cut and wound treatments would become problematic due to the risk of untreatable infection, and easy-to-cure infections such as Lyme disease or yeast infections would be rendered untreatable. The expense of hospital stays – for both patients and providers – will increase significantly. If a solution is not found, it is estimated that there would be a cumulative global loss of $100 trillion USD in economic output between now and 2050.
We must encourage congress to support common sense legislation that supports innovation in the development of new antimicrobials. Our legislators should reject the idea of an era in which there are few remaining treatment options for the most routine and basic infections and provide scientists with the tools to bring these much needed medicines to patients.