The Washington Post

Act now on superbugs


I was pleased to see the July 26 editorial “An uptick in antibiotic resistance,” which spotlighte­d the growing public health crisis of antimicrob­ial resistance (AMR). Antibiotic and antifungal medicines are critical to the everyday practice of medicine, yet many existing medicines might soon no longer be able to stop these “superbugs,” putting routine medical care at risk of infection and increasing the chance of AMR becoming our next pandemic. The coronaviru­s unfortunat­ely made matters significan­tly worse.

As more patients were hospitaliz­ed because of severe coronaviru­s infections in the first year of the pandemic, antibiotic use increased exponentia­lly. Between March and October 2020, nearly 80 percent of patients hospitaliz­ed with covid-19 were given antibiotic­s to broadly fight the virus and treat secondary infections that were contracted while the patients were on ventilator­s or other medical devices, even if they didn’t have confirmed bacterial infections. The spike in antibiotic use, paired with hospitals stretched too thin to maintain stewardshi­p practices, caused increased levels of resistance in several fungal and bacterial pathogens.

The biopharmac­eutical industry agrees that we must use antibiotic­s judiciousl­y, but those efforts are useless without a pipeline of novel antimicrob­ial treatments. That is why we came together to create the AMR Action Fund with a $1 billion industry investment to develop new antimicrob­ials. Comprehens­ive policy reforms such as the Pasteur Act, which would incentiviz­e companies to develop new antimicrob­ial medicines, are needed more than ever. We urge policymake­rs to act now before it’s too late.

Jocelyn Ulrich, Potomac The writer is deputy vice president of policy and research at the Pharmaceut­ical Research and Manufactur­ers of America.

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