- To combat antibiotic resistance federal health officials stressed the need for funding from Congress to speed up drug development processes and argued doctors should be able to rapidly determine whether patients have viruses or bacterial infections during a hearing held Tuesday by a House Energy and Commerce Committee subcommittee on oversight and investigations.
- Some subcommittee members and health experts argued the Senate's version of the 21st Century Cures Act - a Federal Drug Administration (FDA) and drug development bill - needs to be approved quickly as it would allow for drugs to be used for a "limited population."
- According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at least 1 in every 3 antibiotic prescriptions is unnecessary and the overuse contributes to the rise of superbugs - antimicrobial-resistant infections.
The House of Representatives approved its version of the 21st Century Cures Act in July 2015.
Last month, CDC Director Thomas Frieden announced the first documented case in the country of a patient infected with E. coli bacteria with the mcr-1 gene making it resistant to colistin - an antibiotic used as a last-resort.
Antibiotic resistance is an international problem requiring immediate attention, the health officials said.
Dr. Beth Bell, director of the CDC's National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Disease, said beefing up surveillance can make a big difference. She is concerned the CDC is the currently the only lab that can actually look for these types of resistance.
Director of the FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research Dr. Janet Woodcock noted while there are some promising drugs in the pipeline, there are still concerning economic and scientific barriers. “Drug development in this area remains fragile and weak,” Woodcock said.
Congress allocated about $830 million for addressing antibiotic resistance in fiscal 2016. President Obama's request for an additional $1.1 billion for FY 2017 received support from subcommittee member Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), who then called for developing long term strategies. "We need to make it a priority for the foreseeable future," he said.
According to Bell, the CDC is using the resources provided by Congress to improve how the agency prevents and responds to antibiotic resistance by taking steps such as providing infrastructure and lab capacity to up to eight regional labs across the U.S. beginning this fall with the goal of generating better data.