Antimicrobial resistance has been a problem for the medical community since it was first identified in 1977, which was not long after antibiotics were developed. Rapid bacterial adaptation to antimicrobials has caused a surge in the treatment costs and threat to patient safety.
In this article, I’ll explore how the med tech company community has contributed to combat this problem. These initiatives may lead to better patient care and ultimately save lives by reducing unnecessary healthcare expenditure and avoiding untreatable infections.
Use of Antibiotics
An appropriate use of antibiotics refers to the use of these drugs when it is essential and necessary to treat an infection. When used appropriately, they are a rapid tool for fighting disease and preventing many deaths.
Antibiotics have traditionally been seen as an effective way of mitigating the spread of infectious diseases and reducing death rates, including for medical treatments such as organ transplants and cancer chemotherapy.
However, antibiotics affect bacteria in a variety of ways, some which can make them harder or impossible to treat with some antimicrobial agents. This is of increasing concern because antimicrobial resistance is generating and spreading into species that are more difficult to treat; one example of this is the recent case of vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus faecium (VRE).
Resistance of Antimicrobials to Treatment
Studies have demonstrated a direct link between unnecessary antibiotic use within the medical community and the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Methods to ensure an appropriate use of antibiotics have been defined by The World Health Organization (WHO), including a prescription chart, awareness campaigns targeting the general public, and guidelines for physicians when prescribing .
However, there has been little work done looking at the effects of these specific measures on antimicrobial resistance in hospital settings. The majority of recent work done in this field has focused on the relationships between the policies and procedures that apply to antibiotic usage and antibiotics’ effect on antibiotic resistance.
In one such study, thirty-eight countries were ranked with regards to pharmaceutical sectors’ policies which are related to antibiotic resistance.
Antibiotic resistance was examined by looking at the number of medical articles written on “infectious disease”, which directly relates to antibiotic resistance. The study found that countries with high levels of pharmaceutical sector pressure regarding antibiotic use had a significantly increased risk of having a higher level of resistant bacteria in their populations.
Under current market conditions, it is very likely that producers will not be motivated to develop new antibiotics for use in the hospital setting.
In 2007, there were only 5 broad-spectrum antibiotics approved to treat serious infections in hospitalized patients; three of them were replacements for older antibiotics which had been lost due to resistance.
These factors have led to an increased need for policy-makers and regulatory agencies to step up and begin working on strategies to preserve the remaining effectiveness of antimicrobials. One option being considered would be restrictions on the use of these drugs; this study will investigate if restrictions appear to make any difference.
Combating the Antibiotic Resistance
Infections such as tuberculosis and Legionnaires disease, as well as some forms of cancer and AIDS, have been difficult to treat because they are resistant to many common antibiotics . While new antibiotics have helped with this resistance problem, they have also made it harder to treat dangerous infections.
Due to their widespread usage, the overuse and misuse of antibiotics has created superbugs which do not respond to any conventional therapies. This issue is only getting worse with time. With the threat of antibiotic resistance growing, there is a desperate need for new policies and procedures that can preserve what little effectiveness antimicrobials still have.
New regulatory measures and policies should focus on making sure that appropriate use of antibiotics is occurring at every level, from the individual patient to the med tech company responsible for setting guidelines. In addition, current restrictions on antibiotics should be revised based on new evidence. If a change in policy is not implemented, then doctors will continue to prescribe unnecessary amounts of antibiotics and superbugs will continue to develop.