President Barack Obama plans to ask Congress for $1.2 billion for combating antibiotic-resistant bacteria in fiscal 2016—nearly double the federal funds allotted in fiscal 2015. These so-called superbugs are linked to an estimated 23,000 deaths and 2 million infections in the U.S. each year.
The White House released its plan this week in advance of the President’s 2016 budget proposal, which is expected this week.
Under the proposal, the National Institutes of Health and the Biomedical Advanced Research & Development Authority would get $650 million to accelerate the development of new antibiotics and rapid diagnostics for detecting drug-resistant bacteria. More than $280 million would go to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention to improve monitoring of antibiotic use and resistance. FDA would receive $47 million to evaluate new antibiotics and promote antibiotic stewardship in animal agriculture.
In addition, the Department of Agriculture would see its budget for antibiotic research quadruple to $77 million. The Departments of Veterans Affairs and of Defense would get $85 million and $75 million, respectively, to address antibiotic resistance in health care settings.
Public health advocates are welcoming the President’s request to increase funding to fight antibiotic resistance. But the measures, they say, do not address the most significant cause of the problem—overuse of antibiotics in healthy animals raised for food.
“Eighty percent of all antibiotics produced in the U.S. are used on healthy food animals as a means to make them gain weight” and to prevent infections from “unspeakable conditions on the farm,” Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.) says.
Slaughter and other health advocates remain critical of FDA’s policy, which relies on pharmaceutical companies to voluntarily change the labels on their antibiotics to curb antibiotic use in animal agriculture. “There’s no sign from the Administration that the budget increase will be used to actually require significant antibiotic use reduction or compel antibiotic use reporting by the livestock industry,” says Jonathan Kaplan, director of food and agriculture at the environmental group Natural Resources Defense Council.