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.