In a call backed by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), a bipartisan collection of more than 60 United States representatives wrote to House appropriators last week, asking for increased federal resources to address the growing threat of antimicrobial resistant (AMR) infections.
While AMR infections have been growing increasingly prevalent for years, it is a concern that has become more of a focus as the world grapples with a pandemic that has already shown itself capable of rapid change and adaptation. AMR infections are more resistant to available treatments, making them more of a threat for those already in need.
“Drug-resistant infections sicken at least 2.8 million and kill at least 35,000 people annually in the U.S.,” U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree (D-ME), who led the effort alongside U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter (R-GA), said. “If we do not act now, antibiotic resistant infections will be the leading cause of death worldwide by 2050 and could cost $100 trillion globally. The past year has demonstrated that we can’t be caught flat-footed on looming public health threats — Congress must allocate much-needed resources to significantly reduce the burden of antimicrobial resistance, funding important programs at CDC, NIH, and HHS before it’s too late.”
The representatives noted that a major problem exacerbating the issue is the inappropriate use of antibiotic prescriptions. The lawmakers estimated between 30 and 50 percent of such prescriptions are inappropriately issued, causing resistance to grow more quickly. A January 2021 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the University of Utah actually estimated national healthcare costs caused by just six of the 18 most worrisome resistant infections already top more than $4.6 billion annually.
Antibiotics remain a key component of medical response, from cancer chemotherapy to surgeries, or more recently, COVID-19 patients who develop secondary infections.
As a result, the House members called for more than $1 billion in increased funding for the CDC, $500 million for the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, along with a budget of $6.520 billion for the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, of which $600 million would go toward AMR efforts.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it very clear how important effective therapeutics and vaccines are to combat serious illnesses. We need research and innovation to create new antibiotics that will defeat dangerous illnesses,” Carter said. “As a pharmacist, I’ve seen miracles in modern medicine that have come a long way, but we can save more lives with the new drugs yet to be discovered and created.”