Reward Drug Firms for Reducing Resistance

Article excerpt

The U.S. must focus on conserving the use of antibacterial drugs, or face a public health crisis from rapidly rising rates of antibiotic-resistant infections, according to an analysis published in Health Affairs. Evidence indicates that our nation's supply of antibiotics is being depleted by resistance, which occurs when infection-causing microbes mutate or change so that they no longer respond to widely used treatments.

Most proposals to solve this problem focus on giving pharmaceutical companies financial incentives to develop new drugs that could replace those that no longer are working. However, the report suggests that approach will not work for long. New drugs will face microbial foes that figure out how to evade treatment, say two medical policy specialists.

"This is a war we cannot win unless we adopt a two-pronged strategy: one that would boost the supply of new drugs and, at the same time, preserve the ones we have left," maintains Aaron Kesselheim, one of the paper's coauthors and an instructor in medicine in the Division of Pharmacoepidemiology and Pharmacoeconomics at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Mass.

The current pharmaceutical reimbursement system gives companies an incentive to oversell antibiotics, Kesselheim contends. Firms that have spent large sums of money on research and development for a new drug often seek to turn a profit on that product as quickly as possible--before resistance sets in.

Yet, the practice of marketing antibiotics aggressively actually adds to the resistance problem, points out coauthor Kevin Outterson, a professor at Boston University Law School. …