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U.S. spending to combat dangerous superbugs is too low, experts say

Researchers say current efforts need to be improved to protect consumers from drug-resistant bacteria

Photo (c) Argus - Fotolia
A new study conducted by researchers from the University of Pittsburgh found that the U.S. isn’t spending enough money to help maintain the antibiotic market in the fight against one of the most powerful antibiotic resistant bacteria, known as carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE). 

The researchers warn that without spending for drugs that could protect against CRE, five of which have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), other medical procedures and treatments could become compromised, as could patient care. 

“New drugs against CRE address a major, previously unmet medical need and are critical to save lives,” said researcher Dr. Cornelius J. Clancy. “If the market can’t support them, then that is a chilling commentary on the future of antibiotic development. Without antibiotics against increasingly resistant bacteria and fungi, much of modern medicine may become infeasible, including cancer chemotherapies, organ transplantation, and high-risk abdominal surgeries.” 

Pushing for quality care

The researchers cite $1 billion as the figure that these kinds of drugs would require annually in order to generate more anti-CRE drug options. However, CRE-resistant drugs currently bring in just over $100 million each year. 

Despite nearly five million CRE-related hospitalizations each year, doctors aren’t utilizing these drugs as often as they could be, with just 25 percent of patients reaping the benefits of these types of antibiotics. 

With the technology in place and the right antibiotics ready to use, the researchers sought to investigate why this industry has been struggling. Though they discovered that under-use was a factor, they also found that the companies producing these drugs are at a financial disadvantage, which creates a vicious cycle that ultimately ends up hurting patients.  

“The prudent approach when fighting bacteria is to have multiple treatment options in the pipeline so that when resistance is inevitably developed to the current drug, a new antibiotic is waiting in the wings,” said researcher Dr. M. Hong Nguyen. “But we found that market prospects will become even more daunting if more anti-CRE drugs are approved, which is bad news for infectious disease physicians and, more importantly, our patients.” 

In order to ensure that patients are receiving the care they need and deserve, the researchers recommend that insurance companies, policymakers, and hospital personnel do their part to make it easier for physicians to prescribe these kinds of drugs. They also note that members of the medical community need to learn about how valuable they are to patient care.

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