07/10/2012 - One of the great medical advances of the last century, the invention of antibiotics, is at risk of being lost. Increasingly, microbes are becoming untreatable. Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization, warned in March of a dystopian future without these drugs. “A post-antibiotic era means, in effect, an end to modern medicine as we know it,” she said. “Things as common as strep throat or a child’s scratched knee could once again kill.”
For years, antimicrobial resistance has been a secondary issue in public policy. Now Congress has taken a promising step with provisions in legislation President Obama signed Monday. As an incentive to develop new antibiotics, the FDA Safety and Innovation Act gives pharmaceutical companies an extra five years of exclusivity to the data behind their product, on top of the existing five years. The intent is to keep competitors, including generics, at bay for longer. It is not clear whether this incentive alone will be sufficient to bring new antibiotics to market, but it is a recognition of the problem.
Alarm bells have been ringing for a long time about the march of the microbes. It is time to pay attention.
Read the full editorial, Resistance to Antibiotics is Becoming a Crisis, on the Washington Post's website.