Obama Wants to Double Funds to Fight Antibiotic Resistance

January 27, 2015

The Obama administration today proposed to fiscally double down in the war against antibiotic resistance, four months after announcing its game plan to address this global public-health crisis.

The president's budget for fiscal 2016, which begins on October 1, would divvy up $1.2 billion for combating resistance among multiple federal agencies, an amount nearly double that for fiscal 2015.

The money would go toward preventing, detecting, and controlling bacteria that are impervious to antibiotics now on the market. Such superbugs cause at least two million illnesses and 23,000 deaths per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). At stake, said the White House in a statement on its website, is the ability to quickly and reliably treat bacterial infections as well as perform many procedures — joint replacement and organ transplants among them — that are often plagued by infections.

Amanda Jezek, vice president of public policy and government relations at the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), agreed with that assessment.

"Drug resistance impacts our ability to practice medicine," said Jezek in an interview with Medscape Medical News. She gave the example of patients with cancer who receive chemotherapy and become more susceptible to an infection because the treatment weakens their immune system. "We'll be in a situation where we cure people of cancer, but they'll die from an infection."

IDSA intends to lobby Congress in support of the White House funding proposal, Jezek said. As evidenced by past legislation on the subject, fighting antibiotic resistance easily attracts bipartisan support, she said. The question is whether lawmakers will make it a higher priority than other causes. "Trying to get increased federal funding for anything remains a challenge," she said.

National Action Plan Due by February 15

More than $650 million of the $1.2 billion would go to the National Institutes of Health and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority to develop, among other things, new antibiotics and rapid point-of-care tests to identify disease-causing bacteria and any drug resistance they may have. Such advanced diagnostics, the White House said, could significantly reduce unnecessary antibiotic use.

Quick prescribing of the right antibiotic, added Jezek, "can make the difference between life and death with a serious infection."

The CDC would receive $280 million for its work in monitoring antibacterial resistance, identifying outbreaks of such pathogens, and educating clinicians about the judicious use of antibiotics. The White House allocates the rest of the money to the US Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Agriculture, which is grappling with antibiotic resistance in livestock.

How the money gets split up "reflects the complexity of the problem," noted Jezek. "Antibiotic resistance is not something that one agency can handle by itself."

President Barack Obama set the stage for today's budget proposal when he issued a veritable declaration of war against antibiotic resistance last September. He established an interagency government task force and charged it with developing a 5-year "national action plan" by February 15, 2015. One of its jobs is proposing ways in which the government can make it easier for drug companies to bring new antibiotics to market. The task force will consider a menu of recommendations on the superbug problem from the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology.

More information about today's budget announcement is available on the White House website.

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