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Can Congress fix the problem of antimicrobial resistance?

This is an excerpt.

Full article available on National Journal (subscription required).

In the shadow of COVID-19, another public-health threat was growing.

As the U.S. scrambled in the first year of a once-in-a-lifetime pandemic, incidences of hospital-onset infections and deaths due to antibiotic-resistant pathogens both increased by at least 15 percent between 2019 and 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

A CDC special report released in 2022 found that in the first eight months of the pandemic, 80 percent of patients hospitalized for COVID-19 received an antibiotic.

This was a marked shift from the pre-pandemic years. Between 2012 and 2017, deaths linked to antibiotic-resistant infections declined by 18 percent.

“We saw a reversal of that progress, which I think is simultaneously scary that our progress over many years was reversed but I think it’s also, given the challenges of the pandemic, very understandable, especially in health care settings where we had seen the prevention progress,” said Michael Craig, director of the CDC’s Antimicrobial Resistance Coordination and Strategy Unit. “Those were also the settings that were hit so hard by COVID-19.”

Several professional, health-advocacy, and pharmaceutical-trade groups, including IDSA, are also asking Congress to ensure there are new antibiotics to use for infections.

The groups are lining up behind a bipartisan bill introduced last Congress from Sens. Michael Bennet and Todd Young that aims to spur the development of new antibiotics. The proposal would set up a subscription model where the government would enter contracts with drugmakers to keep new antibiotics in the market and encourage innovation. Those contracts would be worth from$750 million to $3 billion.

Jenny Luray, senior vice president of strategy and public engagement at Research!America, said that the Bennet-Young bill is “one of a number of key tools in the toolbox.”

“If you look at the reality of bringing a product to the market that you literally don’t want people to use until it’s kind of like, ‘Break glass when there’s an emergency,’ you’ve got to come up with a different form of compensation,” Luray said.