Last week, President Obama issued an executive order directing the government to create a national strategy to battle antibiotic-resistant organisms by early next year. The order creates a government task force and a presidential advisory council dedicated to addressing antibiotic resistance. It also calls for new regulations to oversee the use of antibiotics in hospital settings, and urges more effective tracking of antibiotic use and the development of new antibiotics and lab tests.
Commenting on the presidential order, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Tom Frieden, MD, MPH, calls antibiotic resistance “an urgent health threat and a threat to our economic status as well.” The CDC has linked antibiotic-resistant infections to approximately 23,000 deaths and two million illnesses each year in the United States. According to White House sources, the cost to the American economy, when lost productivity is figured into the equation, approaches $20 billion annually.
One issue that has emerged as controversial with regard to this topic is the use of antibiotics in animals that are processed for meat. Some advocacy groups have urged the president to limit the use of antibiotics for disease prevention in animals held in crowded conditions. The executive order notes that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is already encouraging the phasing-out of “agricultural use of medically important antibiotics for growth-promotion purposes” and instructs the agency to continue doing so, but it does not address other uses of antibiotics in food animals. Read the executive order.Read more