The Challenge Fact Sheet
Antibiotics are one of the most important tools in modern medicine. These drugs can mean the difference between life and death when humans contract a bacterial infection—from staph to salmonella to bacterial pneumonia. But overuse and misuse of these drugs are making bacteria more quickly resistant to essential antibiotics.
Antibiotic resistance complicates medical treatment, and frequently results in longer and more serious illness, and in some instances even death. According to a team of researchers affiliated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2002 alone, 99,000 people died in the U.S. of a hospital-acquired infectious disease.1 Children, the elderly and the chronically ill are particularly vulnerable to antibiotic-resistant infections. In 1998, the Institute of Medicine estimated that antibiotic resistance generated at least $4 billion to $5 billion per year in extra costs to the U.S. health care system. More recently, researchers with the Alliance for the Prudent Use of Antibiotics and Cook County Hospital in Chicago estimated that this number has grown to $16.6 billion to $26 billion per year. For these reasons, the CDC has declared that antibiotic resistance is among its top concerns.
Working together, citizens, government, industry and public interest organizations have the tools to reduce overuse and misuse of antibiotics:
• Individuals can practice safe and effective use of antibiotics by only taking them when and as prescribed by a doctor.
• The food animal industry can adopt cost-effective alternative hygienic strategies for preventing illness in animals and discontinue use of antibiotics in feed for growth promotion.10
The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA, H.R. 965) would withdraw the routine, not-therapeutic use of seven classes of antibiotics vitally important to human health from food animal production unless animals or herds are sick with diagnosed. Federal legislation such as this and/or regulation is needed in order to preserve the effectiveness of these life-saving drugs and to protect human health.