It’s becoming increasingly clear that pharmaceutically engineered antibiotic resistant “superbugs” are going to be the next healthcare emergency the United States faces, and if our current drug choices and treatment options are not changed they will kill millions of people. According to the CDC, from 2006 to 2014 3,200 children died from these CRE infections alone and if there are no treatment alternatives to add to our current option of vigorously biocidein treating them, that number will likely escalate quickly. The last time a public health crisis like this was this significant was when 9 million people contracted HIV/AIDS.
The problem, however, is that we do not have any curative treatments for CRE infections that kill. U.S. law allows any state to require private and public patients to obtain the treatment known as a catheter line despite the unproven efficacy of this therapy which last 30 days and requires doctors to sever the catheter line at the end of each treatment. The CBO estimates that the annual added costs of caring for these patients are over $100 million. These patients are not eligible for Medicaid, causing those savings to be swamped by the added costs of caring for non-eligible patients. This is extremely costly for the health care system and simply does not add value to society.
What’s more, CRE infections can also be transmitted to grown-up patients and new outbreaks are now beginning to pose a growing health threat to an even greater number of U.S. adults. Think about it, when a 3 year old gets an ear infection most people treat it with antibiotics, but with CRE infections the infection can be nearly twice as likely to infect adults as children. With 22,000 children still hospitalized each year in the U.S. for these infections an outbreak here in the U.S. could increase these costs to our country.
Obviously, there is not the space in this letter to cover all of the emerging dangers these diseases are likely to pose to the U.S. health care system and we thought we’d best start here because that’s where we’re headed.