New Bill Before Congress Aims at Addressing Antibiotic Resistance Problem

Congress capitol dome
Congress capitol dome
Antibiotic resistance has a high mortality rate, and the problem is growing as manufacturers retreat from investing in new drugs and diagnostic tests.

Antibiotic resistance continues to be a major source of mortality in the United States. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that at least 2 million individuals in the United States become ill from antibiotic-resistant bacteria every year and at least 23,000 die.1  One of the most deadly culprits is Clostridium difficile, an infection usually related to antibiotic use — particularly in hospitals — that is responsible for an estimated 14,000 deaths annually.1

Congress will now be addressing the problem of antibiotic resistance with a bill introduced to the US House of Representatives on March 30, 2017 by Congressman Erik Paulsen (R-MN) and Congressman Mike Thompson (D-CA). Using the Orphan Drug tax credit as a model, the Reinvigorating Antibiotic and Diagnostic Innovation (READI) H.R. Bill 1840 provides tax incentives for pharmaceutical companies to invest in the development of novel antibiotics and rapid diagnostic tests for infections.

“New classes of antibiotics are critically important in providing additional options to ensure that effective treatment of patients with multidrug-resistant infections is available,” James M. Hughes, MD, FIDSA, professor of medicine and public health, and co-director, Emory Antibiotic Resistance Center in Atlanta, Georgia, told Infectious Disease Advisor. “Rapid diagnostic tests are essential to support antibiotic stewardship efforts to reduce inappropriate antibiotic use and help prolong the effectiveness of currently available drugs by ensuring their judicious use.”

A letter of strong support for the Bill from The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) and signed by 41 organizations, was submitted along with H.R. 1840. “Antibiotic development has been largely abandoned by pharmaceutical companies,” the letter states, and economic incentives are needed to encourage the development of newer antibiotic therapies that reduce antibiotic resistance. “Most pharmaceutical companies have retreated from antibiotic research and development because antibiotics are difficult and costly to develop and fail to provide a profit. They are typically inexpensive and taken for a short duration, unlike many drugs for chronic diseases,” an IDSA press release quoted Henry “Chip” Chambers, IDSA board member and chief of the division of infectious diseases at San Francisco General Hospital.

“Antibiotic resistance is threatening our ability to provide many types of medical care — including solid organ and bone marrow transplants, joint replacements, cancer chemotherapy, care of preterm infants, and care of deep combat wounds and burns in our military service men and women,” past president IDSA Johan Bakken, MD, said in the same press release, “all of which rely on the availability of safe and effective antibiotics.”

The Emory Antibiotic Resistance Center at Emory University was among the signers.  “It is encouraging to see the bipartisan support for this important legislation, which is urgently needed,” Dr. Hughes said in response, adding that, “Antibiotic resistance is an urgent, complex, multifaceted problem with implications for human, animal, and environmental health. The READI bill provides for an important incentive for industry to invest in the development of new antibiotics and rapid point-of-care diagnostic tests, two important components of the comprehensive strategy for addressing this challenge and avoiding a return to the pre-antibiotic era.”

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  1. Antibiotic resistance threats in the US. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website.  Updated September 16, 2013. Accessed April 7, 2017
  2. H.R.1840 – Reinvigorating Antibiotic and Diagnostic Innovation Act of 2017. 115th Congress. Accessed April 7, 2017.