POLITICAL observations & opinions

* from the World Health Organization … Antibiotic Resistance Could Bring ‘End of Modern Medicine’ … If there was ever an issue that needed coordinated and intelligent government financing, this is it. Antibiotic resistance already kills far more people than bioterrorism ever has, and the long term outlook is truly catastrophic.

Posted by Lew Weinstein on March 18, 2012

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Katie Moisse writes for ABC News (3/16/12) …

  • As bacteria evolve to evade antibiotics, common infections could become deadly, according to Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization.
  • Speaking at a conference in Copenhagen, Chan said antibiotic resistance could bring about “the end of modern medicine as we know it.”
  • “We are losing our first-line antimicrobials,”
  • Chan said hospitals have become “hotbeds for highly-resistant pathogens” like methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, “increasing the risk that hospitalization kills instead of cures.”
  • “Some experts say we are moving back to the pre-antibiotic era. No. This will be a post-antibiotic era.
  • In terms of new replacement antibiotics, the pipeline is virtually dry,” said Chan.

“A post-antibiotic era means, in effect,

an end to modern medicine as we know it.

Things as common as strep throat or a child’s scratched knee

could once again kill.”

  • The dearth of effective antibiotics could also make surgical procedures and certain cancer treatments risky or even impossible, Chan said.
  • “Some sophisticated interventions, like hip replacements, organ transplants, cancer chemotherapy and care of preterm infants, would become far more difficult or even too dangerous to undertake,” she said.

The development of new antibiotics now could help

stave off catastrophe later.

But few drug makers are willing to invest in drugs

designed for short term use.

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/abc-blogs/antibiotic-resistance-could-bring-end-modern-medicine-150406532–abc-news.html

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LMW COMMENT …

What could be more frustrating than to see this message from the WHO, roughly 20 years after the Public Health Research Institute (of which I was then CEO) repeatedly communicated this exact same message to an essentially uninterested audience, and never received the funding which could have dealt with this problem when it would have been so much easier to contain.

Since then, the problem has worsened and, as this article points out, very little has been done to avert, in Pulitzer-prize-winning Laurie Garrett’s words, “ the coming plague.”

If there was ever an issue that needed coordinated and intelligent government financing, this is it. Antibiotic resistance already kills far more people than bioterrorism ever has, and the long term outlook is truly catastrophic.

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3 Responses to “* from the World Health Organization … Antibiotic Resistance Could Bring ‘End of Modern Medicine’ … If there was ever an issue that needed coordinated and intelligent government financing, this is it. Antibiotic resistance already kills far more people than bioterrorism ever has, and the long term outlook is truly catastrophic.”

  1. Rawy Shediac said

    It is all about money and Ego.

    Pharma is after $$ and will develop drugs with more profit potential.

    Governament will spend more on stopping loss of life from terrorist attacks (presumingly planned in Afganistan) rather than avoiding deseases including obesity, smoking, and the issue at stake here. That is ego. Would you trade 100 persons killed by bombs in the USA for 100,000 saved by better use of the same funds which would have averted the attacks? Our Ego would not allow that.

    It is very discouraging I am afraid.

    • Lew Weinstein said

      I don’t think it’s fair to blame Pharma. They are not charities, and have to answer to shareholders, such as (perhaps) you, who demand ROI. When there is no private profit in providing for the common good, that is the definition of what government should do. Perhaps now that WHO has raised consciousness of the issue, there will be more interest in addressing it.

      Part of the solution is research and new drugs.

      But a bigger part (in my opinion) is the insistence on good practices by doctors and hospitals.
      We should not tolerate high rates of infection in any hospital.
      We should not tolerate high rates of infection by some surgeons.

      There are some hospitals, and even some whole countries who do not have these problems. We need to understand what they do and replicate it everywhere.

      These are not problems which cannot be solved. But solutions require effective management across a broad swath of medical practitioners who tend to resist being managed.

      In other words, we need MORE GOVERNMENT REGULATION. And we need to stuff that reality squarely in the faces of the obstructionist politicians (mostly Republicans) who so often take an ignorant lock-step no regulation approach based on no understanding of the situation.

  2. Robert Lifton said

    I worked with Lew as Chair of PHRI, a position I took after Lew apprised me of the frightening implications of growing anti-biotic drug resistance. Like Lew, I am appalled at the failure of the medical profession, governments and NGO’s to understand and communicate the terrible implications of the expanding resistance for the future of medicine and the health of future generations.

    Looking at a map of how resistance spreads all too quickly throughout the world is like watching an implacable enemy take over territory in a war. The bacteria can convey resistance to other bacteria both genetically and laterally so that the more that an antibiotic is used effectively, the more the resistance grows. And the drug companies have not been willing to spend the necessary funds to develop new anti-biotics because the payoff is not as great as other drugs (e.g. Viagra) .

    Those of us concerned about the welfare of our children and grandchildren should raise a clamor for more focus on this frightening problem.

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