SAN FRANCISCO -- The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) testified before the Government Reform Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives today to express its strong support for the Bush administration's Project Bioshield. However, the IDSA urged Congress and the administration to expand the scope of Project Bioshield to include proactive measures to ensure the availability of novel antimicrobial agents to fight non-bioterrorism-related infections.
"Project Bioshield provides important incentives to accelerate pharmaceutical research to ensure the availability of drugs and other tools to respond to bioterrorism outbreaks," John E. Edwards, MD, chair of IDSA's Public Policy Committee told the House committee. "Those same incentives could and should be applied to ensure the availability of antimicrobials and other therapeutics to protect Americans from naturally occurring pathogens."
Despite the threat of a bioterrorism event unleashing virulent pathogens on Americans, a more immediate (yet related) crisis is unfolding in U.S. hospitals and in our communities in the form of naturally occurring infections that are becoming increasingly resistant to existing antimicrobial drug products. In the last year alone, we have learned of microorganisms that have become resistant to drugs that are normally considered the last line of defense against certain infections. Last summer, Michigan reported cases of vancomycin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, and, more recently, we have learned of methicillin-resistant S. aureus.
Left untreated, these naturally occurring infections are often fatal. At a time when new anti-infective agents are needed more than ever, the largest pharmaceutical companies are considering or already have withdrawn from anti-infective drug development because of low profitability of such products. Of 89 new agents approved in 2002, not one antibacterial drug was approved.
Project Bioshield provides incentives to motivate the pharmaceutical industry to develop new products that will protect Americans against bioterrorism. IDSA urges Congress to considering expanding the scope of Project Bioshield to provide incentive for the industry to develop new anti-infective drugs to protect against existing public health threats.
Without immediate action, America will face a situation in which fewer antimicrobial products will be available to treat an increasing number of infectious microbes at a time when resistance to available agents is exploding and new infections are emerging.
The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) is a professional society representing nearly 7,000 physicians and scientists who specialize in infectious diseases.