FDA pushes to fight drug-resistant germs

The Obama administration wants new controls to help prevent outbreaks of drug-resistant bacteria.

On Friday, a top Food and Drug Administration (FDA) official told House lawmakers that the agency was “very concerned” about the threat of bacteria that are immune to drugs.

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One of the ways to combat the problem, Janet Woodcock said, would be for Congress to send a message telling doctors and hospitals not to over-prescribe drugs to their patients.

“I feel that a strong signal from Congress to the healthcare community about stewardship would be very important,” she testified before the Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health.

Bacteria can develop resistance to antibiotic drugs over time. A report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention earlier this year asserted that there are “potentially catastrophic consequences” of ignoring drug-resistant bacteria, which infect at least 2 million Americans each year. 

Woodcock, director of the FDA’s drug evaluation and research center, said on Friday that Congress should discourage doctors from prescribing antibiotics when they’re not necessary.

“We feel that it should be explored that the Congress could make some kind of program that would really send a signal about limited use and good antibiotic stewardship,” she said.

She noted that a potential program should merely tell physicians to be mindful of the prescriptions they hand out, not tie their hands.

“When somebody rolls in the emergency room or whatever, gets sick in an ICU, we want physicians to use their best judgment,” she told reporters after the hearing.

“Some sort of ironclad restriction on the use of these is not going to help patients. We’re talking about prudence.”

She added that drug companies should be encouraged to start making new antibiotics, especially ones designed to fight drug-resistant bacteria.

“We feel that a limited pathway for development of antibiotics for drug resistant organisms would address this growing epidemic that we’re seeing,” she said.