The Growing Threat of Drug-Resistant Infections
There are many issues in today’s world, but few compare to the imminent crisis we are facing. According to a report from the United Nations, more common medications are losing their capability to combat dangerous infections. With only a small number of new drugs being developed, this catastrophe could lead to millions of deaths and create a larger gap between poor and rich countries.
230,000 people die from drug-resistant tuberculosis, and 700,000 people die from other drug-resistant infections annually. Unchecked use of antifungal medicines and antibiotics in agriculture, humans, and livestock is bringing this crisis to us faster with each passing year. If no action is taken, we could be looking at numbers as high as 10 million people dying annually by 2050 from resistant infections. Not only will this affect the lives of millions, we will see an economic slowdown to challenge the global financial crisis of 2008.
Director of the U.N. Interagency Coordination Group on Antimicrobial Resistance Dr. Haileyesus Getahun says, “This is a silent tsunami.” Getahun worked for two years on the report. “We are not seeing the political momentum we’ve seen in other public health emergencies, but if we don’t act now, antimicrobial resistance will have a disastrous impact within a generation.”
It is proposed in the report that a series of measures taken could help stop the rise of drug-resistant pathogens. These include:
- Financial incentives for drug companies that develop new antimicrobial compounds.
- More rules to limit selling antibiotics in countries where drugs can be purchased at stores without a prescription.
- Introduce a worldwide ban on the use of medically important antibiotics for promoting the growth of farm animals.
It is crucial to understand the overlooked reasons for the spreading of antibiotic resistant germs. Being able to identify factors that could benefit the production of newer drugs that can fight these infections, and we could find alternatives to limit germs spreading this way. These factors include:
- People in developing countries buying cheap antibiotics from people selling them on the street. These sellers often have little medical expertise and could give someone the wrong type of antibiotic.
- Inadequate sewage systems and the lack of clean water that sickens millions of people in the developing world.
A key point in the report is the push to make new incentives that will encourage drug companies to make antimicrobial medicines. Between 2010 and 2014, six new antimicrobial drugs were approved. From 1980-1984, there were 19 new antimicrobial drugs that were approved. The reason there are not as many of these drugs being produced boils down to the antimicrobial resistance and the free market. To develop a new compound, it can cost half a billion dollars, but doctors are often discouraged from using the drugs in order to reduce the possibility that the pathogens that are targeted will become impervious.
The question here is: What exactly would the incentives be?
The incentives for drug companies to produce these drugs to combat germs that have built up an antibiotic resistance could include financing by the government for the research needed. Another incentive would be changes made regularly that would increase reimbursements for antibiotics that have been approved and considered medically important.
The first step when confronting an issue like this is recognizing the problem. Now that we have identified the problem, we need to look at the possible solutions to prevent antibiotic resistant germs from killing more individuals throughout the world than they already have. The solutions presented may not seem like the easiest way to solve the problem, and they may seem impossible, but we have to consider them when thinking about the lives that could be lost if we don’t act now.