The war against antibiotic resistance is now a full-blown effort among various sectors, including governmental agencies, medical companies, health systems, clinical societies, and payers.
Antibiotic resistance adds $20 billion in excess direct healthcare costs annually in the United States, plus an additional cost of $35 billion per year due to lost productivity, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Using antibiotics is by far the biggest factor leading to antibiotic resistance. But up to 50% of all prescribed antibiotics aren’t necessary or are not prescribed appropriately.
“The use of antibiotics to treat infections has revolutionized medicine and allowed formerly untreatable conditions to be easily cured,” says Managed Healthcare Executive Editorial Adviser Don Hall, former health plan CEO and currently principal, DeltaSigma, LLC, in Littleton, Colorado. “The specter of antibiotic resistance is chilling, sending us backward in time when infections meant long-term suffering and often death. The impact of the reemergence of untreatable infections on our healthcare costs could be prohibitive.”
Among the most recent efforts to address this problem was a White House Forum on Antibiotic Stewardship, convened by the Obama Administration on June 2, which brought together constituencies involved in antibiotic stewardship, i.e., the development, promotion, and implementation of activities to ensure the responsible use of antibiotics.
More than 150 major food companies, retailers, and human and animal health stakeholders announced commitments to implement changes over the next five years to slow the emergence of resistant bacteria and prevent the spread of resistant infections.
“The government has long been active in combating antibiotic resistance,” says Arjun Srinivasan, MD, associate director for Healthcare Associated Infection Prevention Programs, Division of Healthcare Quality Promotion, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, CDC. “But the ever-growing threat of antibiotic resistance requires an even more aggressive effort, and that is what the president has called for. Successful control of antibiotic resistance requires leadership and accountability among industry, healthcare, and other sectors that must move in concert to address this national threat.”
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According to Srinivasan, the CDC has made great strides in posting and distributing timely and accurate information on antibiotic resistance and antibiotic use. “We need this type of information in order to target our efforts,” says Srinivasan.
The National Action Plan for Combating Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria (CARB), which the White House unveiled in March and for which funding is included in the CDC's proposed budget for fiscal 2016, further fuels this effort. The plan identifies critical actions federal departments and agencies should take to combat the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.