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Infectious diseases experts applaud bill against 'bad bugs'

September 28, 2007

Arlington, VA--With extensively drug-resistant tuberculosis, life-threatening drug-resistant respiratory and skin infections, and other "bad bugs" routinely making headlines, infectious diseases physicians are applauding Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT) and Rep. Michael Ferguson (R-NJ) for introducing H.R. 3697, the Strategies To Address Antimicrobial Resistance (STAAR) Act.

"The STAAR Act has the potential to save thousands of lives," said Martin J. Blaser, MD, past president of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA). "IDSA strongly supports the STAAR Act and the comprehensive approach that Reps. Matheson and Ferguson are taking to tackle the problem of antimicrobial resistance. Infectious diseases physicians have watched in dismay for years as the antibacterials and other antimicrobials we rely upon to treat our patients have lost their power."

To make matters worse, there are very few new drugs in the pipeline to replace the failing ones, because the pharmaceutical industry now finds developing new antibiotics less appealing than developing drugs for chronic conditions like heart disease. "We are in danger of slipping backward to the era before antibiotics," Dr. Blaser added. "The STAAR Act gets us back in the fight by enhancing federal leadership, encouraging expert input, and by improving our grasp on resistance and ways to control it."

"The issue goes beyond just the pharmaceutical industry," Dr. Blaser said. "We are all in this together--drug companies, physicians, public health experts, and patients. The STAAR Act makes everyone a partner in the solution."

The bill takes a holistic approach to address inappropriate use, a significant problem that diminishes the effectiveness of antibiotics once they are approved.

It vastly improves the nation's capacity to control resistance by establishing a network of experts across the country to conduct regional monitoring of resistant organisms as they occur--a kind of "snapshot" to pick up on problems early.

"It's a different world versus even five years ago," said Neil Fishman, MD, chair of IDSA's Antimicrobial Resistance Work Group. "Multi-drug resistant bugs like Klebsiella and methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) have cropped up and spread practically before anyone has had the chance to examine them under the microscope, much less do anything to stop their spread." The STAAR Act sets up a network to collaborate with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on disease surveillance. "The network will be CDC's extra eyes and ears looking out for resistant bugs around the nation and finding ways to prevent their spread," Dr. Fishman added.

In a second major activity of the network, researchers also would work with CDC and the National Institutes of Health to find ways to slow the development of resistance. "We need to determine the best ways to keep approved antibiotics working longer," said Louis Rice, MD, chair of IDSA's Research on Resistance Work Group. "Currently, very little research is focusing on this. The STAAR Act network provides the range of experts we need to study the complex field of drug resistance."

The STAAR Act also creates a board of infectious diseases, public health and veterinary experts to advise the federal government on reducing resistance, and an Office of Antimicrobial Resistance in the Department of Health and Human Services to coordinate, help plan, and guide the government's response to resistance.

IDSA thanks Reps. Matheson and Ferguson for their leadership in introducing this important patient safety and public health bill, and encourages Congress to pass it quickly.

"IDSA has been warning that the 'bad bugs' are getting ahead of us," Dr. Blaser said. "We are glad to see Congress is listening. But we need this legislation to pass soon. It takes years to develop, strengthen, and implement new control strategies. These bad bugs are not waiting."
-end-
Find a summary of the STAAR Act and other related information at www.idsociety.org/STAARAct.htm.

IDSA is an organization of physicians, scientists, and other health care professionals dedicated to promoting health through excellence in infectious diseases research, education, prevention, and patient care. The Society, which has more than 8,000 members, was founded in 1963 and is based in Arlington, VA. For more information, visit www.idsociety.org.

Infectious Diseases Society of America

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