By Julian Pecquet - 05/11/10 11:12 PM EDT
Drug-research advocates descended on Capitol Hill on Tuesday to kick off a campaign against microbial infections that kill 19,000 Americans a year and cost billions of dollars to treat.
The advocates are demanding that Congress and the White House create new incentives for drugmakers to develop antimicrobial drugs and simplify the regulatory approval process.
“These organisms are killing patients,” Spellberg said, “and we’re running out of drugs to deal with them.”
The briefing, organized by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), was called to draw attention to the group’s “10 by 20” campaign, aimed at developing 10 new antibiotics by 2020. The group is working alongside Matheson, whose STAAR Act — Strategies to Address Antimicrobial Resistance — is one of five steps the group is pushing for.
“This is our opportunity to develop effective strategies and interventions,” Matheson said.
Matheson’s bill would:
• Reauthorize the Antimicrobial Resistance Task Force, establishing an advisory board of outside experts and an Antimicrobial Resistance Office reporting to the secretary of Health and Human Services. Its director would coordinate government efforts to combat antimicrobial resistance;
• Create an antimicrobial resistance strategic research plan, as well as establish the Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance and Research Network;
• Collect data to allow government to better assess the antimicrobial resistance problem; and
• Establish demonstration projects to encourage more appropriate use of existing antibiotics.
The bill authorizes $45 million over five years that would still need to be appropriated.
Matheson said that lawmakers have been working on the issue since at least the 103rd Congress but that he remains confident something can happen this year.
Matheson’s bill has three Democratic co-sponsors — Rep. Tammy BaldwinTammy BaldwinOvernight Finance: Wall Street awaits Brexit result | Clinton touts biz support | New threat to Puerto Rico bill? | Dodd, Frank hit back Dem hopeful that Congress will eliminate tax break for investment fund managers Congress should stop government hacking and protect the Fourth Amendment MORE (Wis.), Del. Donna Christensen (Virgin Islands) and Rep. Gene GreenGene GreenIn praise of trauma care—dozens saved by heroes of Orlando’s level one trauma center Dems who sat out the sit-in offer array of reasons GOP surprises with push for smaller ObamaCare changes MORE (Texas). Matheson said he hopes the Senate will introduce a companion measure in the next couple of weeks; Sens. Sherrod BrownSherrod BrownClinton’s 9 most likely VP picks Overnight Finance: Trump threatens NAFTA withdrawal | Senate poised for crucial Puerto Rico vote | Ryan calls for UK trade deal | Senate Dems block Zika funding deal Senators rally for coal miner pension fix MORE (D-Ohio) and Orrin HatchOrrin HatchTreasury officials to meet with lawmakers on inversion rules A bipartisan bright spot we can’t afford to pass up: child welfare reform Medicare trust fund running out of money fast MORE (R-Utah) introduced it last Congress.
Twenty-six organizations have endorsed the bill, from the American Medical Association to the National Parent-Teacher Association.
But Robert Guidos, IDSA’s vice president for public policy and government relations, said the Matheson bill does not go far enough.
“It does not get at the pipeline problem,” he told The Hill, “which is why we think there’s a need to create incentives to draw pharmaceutical companies in this area.”
In addition to the STAAR Act, the IDSA wants to:
• Create new statutory incentives, assuring a clear regulatory pathway at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and potentially creating a new public-private partnership. Spellberg said unlike chronic-disease drugs, antibiotics are only given to patients for a few days before they’re cured and their use is actually discouraged so they can stay potent longer; that makes profit-seeking pharmaceutical companies unlikely to invest in such research.
• Stop inappropriate uses of antibiotics for farm activities such as animal feed and routine disease prevention. A bill sponsored by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinHomeland Security Committee pushes encryption commission in new report Clinton ally stands between Sanders and chairmanship dream Clinton endorses Warner-McCaul encryption commission MORE (D-Calif.) would address those concerns, Guidos said.
• Promote good antibiotic stewardship practices in both human and veterinary clinical settings.
• Treat antibiotic resistance as a global health issue.
The group is also requesting more money, including an extra $36 million for FDA’s antibiotic resistance and antibacterial drug review programs and to support new regulatory science initiatives.
The group also wants funding increased to $500 million for antibacterial resistance and antibacterial drug discovery and development research funding at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases within the National Institutes of Health. And it objects to the Obama administration’s proposed cut to the Antimicrobial Resistance program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, instead favoring increasing this program to a total of $40 million.
Obama also mentioned a new initiative focused on biodefense and infectious diseases during his State of the Union address, but details are still sparse.
“We are launching a new initiative,” Obama said at the time, “that will give us the capacity to respond faster and more effectively to bio-terrorism or an infectious disease — a plan that will counter threats at home and strengthen public health abroad.”