IDSA describes AMR challenges, answers in congressional testimony

July 3, 2019

The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) treasurer Dr. Helen Boucher, FIDSA, has urged lawmakers to support and expand federal efforts to stabilize the antibiotic market, spur the development of new infection-fighting drugs and protect existing ones in testimony before House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on National Security, according to a press release from the organization.

Dr. Boucher, an infectious diseases specialist who also serves as director of the Tufts Center for Integrated Management of Antimicrobial Resistance in Boston, testified on behalf of IDSA, explaining why combating antimicrobial resistance and promoting research and development of new antibiotics is a central priority for the society. She shared patient stories and highlighted threats to public health as well as to domestic and global health security posed by infections that are resistant to the most effective, and in some cases only treatments.

Recounting the case of a patient who survived cancer but died as a result of an infection contracted in the course of treatment that did not respond to available antibiotics, Dr. Boucher told legislators that the challenges to saving the patient’s life were all too common. Dr. Boucher also described the case of a young woman, one of many, she said with drug-resistant infections related to opioid use, who after two heart valve replacements in two years, may soon require another.

Citing data indicating that that as many as 162,000 Americans die each year as a result of infections resistant to existing antibiotics, Dr. Boucher told lawmakers that the inability to treat infections not responding to existing treatments threatens decades of medical progress, including cancer chemotherapy, organ and bone marrow transplants and other complex surgeries. Weaponization of antibiotic resistant pathogens, she said, would have devastating impacts on national security.

Dr. Boucher praised current federal responses to antimicrobial resistance, including at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority – BARDA – and urged congressional support for the DISARM -- Developing an Innovative Strategy for Antimicrobial Resistant Microorganisms -- DISARM -- Act – recently introduced in the Senate by United States Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Bob Casey (D-PA). Describing how limited use of antibiotics has led large antibiotic makers to leave the field, and small ones to declare bankruptcy, Dr. Boucher said that additional, innovative federal action will be needed to add incentives for antibiotic research and development in a struggling marketplace.  Investments to promote the appropriate use of antibiotics through stewardship are equally essential. she said.