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Legislation Seeks to Address Antibiotic Resistance Concerns

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A new bill introduced in congress seeks to prevent millions of illnesses and potentially disasterous pandemics that may occur due to the rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs. 

Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) introduced the Helping Effective Antibiotics Last (HEAL) Act (H.R.931) on February 12, which is designed to combat the growing concern of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, affecting millions of people worldwide. The legislation focuses on ways to spur production of new antibiotics while better protecting patients.

“Antibiotic resistance is a crisis that needs immediate attention, and patient safety and stewardship must be at the heart of the solution,” DeLauro said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate more than 2 million Americans are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria each year, and at least 23,000 people die as result.

The CDC issued a warning in 2013, calling on healthcare facilities to take steps to prevent the spread of antibiotic-resistant infections commonly seen in hospital settings.

HEAL outlines a development process for pharmaceutical companies to produce and conserve new antibiotics, while focusing on patient safety during the FDA approval process. The legislation encourages pharmaceutical companies to develop antibiotics for patients who need them while calling on the FDA to monitor the use of antibiotics to help prevent the creation of future super bugs.

“The HEAL Act is unique in that it applies scientific best practices to the development of safe and effective antibiotics to protect patient safety and conserve lifesaving antibiotics,” said DeLauro.

A British report published last year outlined a troubling trend concerning the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, with estimates suggested that 10 million deaths may be attributable to super bugs every year by 2050, unless drastic measures are taken to stop the spread of harmful bacteria.

The prominent consumer advocacy group Public Citizen applauded the HEAL Act, saying it would “protect Americans from emerging infectious diseases and address the growing threat of antibiotic-resistant pathogens.”

“We cannot afford to lower safeguards to simply help companies approve antibiotics faster,” said Vijay Das, Healthcare policy advocate of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division. “That only would make the problem worse and harm patients.”

In response to the increasing health concerns, the Obama Administration announced a plan to mitigate the problem posed by antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The executive order, issued in September 2014, formulated a national strategy and task force to deal with the problem.

Other bills have been introduced for consideration, including the 21st Century Cures and PATH Act. However, critics say these bills fail to address antibiotic resistance and would lower, instead of increase, the FDA’s approval standards for new antibiotics.

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