March 30, 2015
Critical Legislation Pending to Address Growing Threat of Antibiotic Resistance; President’s Plan Has Good Elements
Statement of Vijay Das, Health Care Policy Advocate, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division
Note: On Friday, the White House and the Secretaries of Defense, Health and Agriculture released a Plan to Combat and Prevent Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, designed to protect Americans from emerging infectious diseases and address the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant pathogens.
Antibiotic resistance is a public health emergency. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates (PDF) that more than two million Americans are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year and at least 23,000 die as a direct result.
The best way to attack this threat is to: 1) use antibiotics only when medically required to slow the development of antibiotic resistance; and 2) invest in the development of safe treatments.
The president’s plan has good elements, but his best course of action is to veto the 21st Century Cures deregulatory effort making its way through Congress, which would undermine everything his plan stands for. He also should address the growing overuse of antibiotics and support the Helping Effective Antibiotics Last (HEAL) Act (H.R. 931), which would complement recent executive actions on the threat of antibiotic-resistant pathogens.
Unlike the ideas in the 21st Century Cures package and the PATH Act, which compromise public safety, the HEAL Act would protect patients throughout the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval process while boosting the development of proven and safe new antibiotics. To advance the interests of this plan, Congress should move forward with ideas offered in the HEAL Act and the goals of the president’s plan.
Public Citizen thanks Secretaries Ash Carter, Sylvia Burwell and Tom Vilsack for their leadership and encourages Congress to support prevention and public health research that properly addresses the core challenges around the threat of antibiotic resistance.