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For Immediate Release: September 18, 2014

TFAH issues Statement on the Threat of Antibiotic Resistance, Recommends Government Take Additional Action

Washington, DC, September 18, 2014 – The following is a statement from Jeffrey Levi, PhD, executive director of Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) on actions from the White House and the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology (PCAST) report on antibiotic resistance.

“TFAH commends the White House for the Executive Order and national strategy and PCAST for their new report on antibiotic resistance.  Together, these actions recognize that antibiotic resistance is an urgent public health crisis.  It is not an exaggeration to say that antibiotic resistance presents one of the greatest and scariest threats to human health around the world. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year two million Americans develop antibiotic-resistant infections and at least 23,000 people die as a result.

Because of overuse and lack of development of new antibiotics, we’re at a point where some forms of infections, which can include strep throat, tuberculosis, Salmonella and Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) along with other healthcare-associated infections, are resistant to treatment by antibiotics.

The executive actions include important, concrete steps to combat the crisis, including a Secretary-level task force to implement the National Strategy.  While we applaud the strong federal leadership, we are concerned that the PCAST report does not make powerful enough recommendations around the routine agricultural use of medically-important antibiotics in food animal production.  The report confirms that there is a direct link between routine agricultural use of antibiotics and antibiotic resistance in humans, yet loopholes in the voluntary guidance from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) could mean a missed opportunity to significantly reduce the overuse of these drugs in animal feed.

To avoid the vast and dangerous consequences of antibiotic resistance, TFAH calls for an immediate, comprehensive and coordinated approach. To start, we recommend that Congress and the Administration take action by:

  • Incentivizing Development of New Drugs: Innovation of new antibiotics has stagnated. Congress should pass a limited population drug approval pathway for new antibiotics, like what was included in the ADAPT Act.
  • Reducing Overuse of Medically-Important Antibiotics in Agriculture: The FDA should fully implement and strengthen guidance to industry regarding the nontherapeutic use of antibiotics in food animals, such as by eradicating inappropriate use for disease prevention, requiring real veterinary oversight on the farm, and tracking the impact of these policies on resistance.
  • Reducing Overprescribing: The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) should require all CMS-enrolled facilities to have effective antibiotic stewardship programs, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) should help develop quality measures that assure appropriate prescribing of antibiotics.  HHS, CMS, accrediting organizations, healthcare facilities, medical schools and others should educate providers and patients about the harm of inappropriate prescribing.  
  • Strengthening Surveillance: Congress and CDC must invest in our public health infrastructure to enable the detection and control of drug resistant outbreaks, including strengthening and streamlining disease surveillance systems and integrating surveillance with healthcare delivery.

TFAH hopes the PCAST report and Executive Actions will help speed up national and international efforts. We look forward to working with all levels of government—including the Administration and Congress—to fight antibiotic resistance.”

Trust for America’s Health is a non-profit, non-partisan organization dedicated to saving lives by protecting the health of every community and working to make disease prevention a national priority.www.healthyamericans.org.

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Media Contacts: Albert Lang (202) 223-9870 x 21 or alang@tfah.org or Laura Segal (202) 223-9870 x 27 or lsegal@tfah.org