'We're playing with fire': Lawmaker urges action on fight against superbugs

Lawmakers may miss a crucial window to pass legislation to address the proliferation of drug-resistant infections, also known as superbugs, Politico reported Oct. 2.

The PASTEUR Act, introduced in 2020, would create a subscription model for antimicrobial drugs that delinks payments to drug companies from how much medicine they sell. Legislators hope this would help companies survive financially and preserve the powerful new drugs.

Under the proposal, once a drug is approved by the FDA, the company would apply to HHS for a contract that would spread millions in payments to the firm over time. In exchange, federally insured patients would receive the drug for free.

Due to a tight congressional calendar, a heated election season and fights over spending, the bill may not be presented until Congress' next session. The delay could cost the U.S. healthcare system billions, according to Politico.

"We're playing with fire if we don't pass this fairly soon," Sen. Todd Young, one of the bill's lead sponsors, told Politico. "Every day that passes, we see more deaths on account of antimicrobial resistance, and this situation grows more challenging and more costly."

According to the CDC, nearly 50,000 people die each year in the U.S. from drug-resistant and antibiotic-associated infections. Experts warn it is already a silent pandemic, according to Politico. The CDC said the crisis grew worse during COVID-19, when doctors overprescribed antibiotics and hospitals failed to control drug-resistant infections, leading to a 15 percent spike in 2020.

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