May 25, 2015

Research Roundup: US and European efforts to address growing antimicrobial resistance and legislation to advance medical breakthroughs

Senior Program Assistant

Members of the European Parliament are calling on the European Commission to adopt a resolution to combat the growing threat of antimicrobial resistance—which kills 25,000 Europeans annually. The proposal calls for both “pharmaceutical innovation” and “new revenue models whereby economic returns for companies [are] de-linked from prescribed volumes of antibiotics,” noting the role of public-private partnerships in research for new antibiotics. The proposal also includes measures to promote responsible human and veterinary use of antibiotics, including public awareness campaigns and physician training; monitoring and regulation of antibiotic prescription and sales; and improved diagnostic procedures to ensure appropriate use of antibiotics.

Across the Atlantic, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants to address the paucity of data on antibiotic use in farm animals to better assess the impact of this practice on growing antimicrobial resistance. The FDA is collecting public comment on a proposal which would require drug companies to report sales for antibiotics approved for livestock, disaggregated by use in cattle, pigs, chickens, and turkeys. While sales of these antibiotics increased by 20 percent between 2009 and 2013, several major poultry producers—including Tyson Foods and Perdue—have promised consumers significant cuts in antibiotic use. Meanwhile, Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (D-NY) is reintroducing the Delivering Antimicrobial Transparency in Animals Act which would require major farms to report on agricultural antibiotic use.

The House Energy & Commerce Committee unanimously approved the 21st Century Cures Act on Thursday, a bill intended to support research for and expedite the approval of medical breakthroughs. The legislation is the result of a year-long effort, led by the committee Chairman Representative Frank Upton (R-MI) and member Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO), which involved a series of hearings, testimonies, white papers, and requests for public comment to identify the best policy approaches to advance medical cures. The committee has already developed a US$13 billion deal to pay for the legislation’s provisions, including $10 billion for research conducted by the United States National Institutes of Health and $550 million for regulatory efforts at the FDA. As these funds would be mandated, rather than subject to the appropriations process, they are exempt from sequestration budget caps. The bill’s cost will be offset by the sale of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve and changes to government Medicare payments, including delayed payments to insurance companies.