Northwestern Medicine Hosts Expert Panel on Proposed Legislation to Fight Drug-Resistant Diseases

Northwestern Medicine
Infectious Disease May 19, 2014
On May 15, 2014, Northwestern Medicine® hosted a panel discussion with infectious diseases experts and U.S. Representatives Peter Roskam, R-Ill., and Danny Davis, D-Ill., in support of a new legislation to help tackle the growing issue of multi-drug resistant organisms (MDROs). Every year, at least 2 million people are infected by MDROs according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 

The problem of MDROs was first detected in the 1940s when antibiotic drugs were first used to dramatically reduce the rate of illness and death caused by infectious diseases. While the use of antibiotics remains extraordinarily beneficial when they are prescribed and taken properly, many of the disease-causing organisms have developed antibiotic resistance due to antibiotic exposure, leading to MDROs. This increasing resistance caused antibiotic drugs to have much less impact. In many cases, antibiotics that were once extremely effective are longer able to effectively treat the diseases they were developed to target.

“The CDC put together a study and found that 23,000 people die annually due to infection from these antibiotic-resistant diseases,” said Marc H. Scheetz, PharmD, infectious diseases pharmacist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and one of the five expert panelists. “We were fortunate to watch our Chicago Blackhawks win another playoff series, and they did that in front of 23,000 fans. Imagine all of those fans dying annually from an antibiotic-resistant infection.”

Many people many not have heard the term MDRO before, but many know some of the group’s most infamous members by name, including methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Salmonella.

Scheetz also stressed that while there is a growing need to address MDROs, the number of new drugs coming out to the market is shrinking. “The pipeline is drying up and there are only seven new Gram-negative antimicrobial drugs approaching the approval stage.”

The proposed legislation, H.R. 4187, known as The DISARM Act, from Congressmen Roskam and Davis focuses on increasing the rate of reimbursements for hospitals when they use new antibiotics to treat patients with antibiotic-resistant infections. The goal of the DISARM Act is to provide pharmaceutical manufacturers financial incentives to increase the number of new drugs on the market, over the next few years.

“Without new drugs for many of these resistant infections, a growing number of patients will have no available treatments,” said Sarah Sutton, MD, medical director of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at Northwestern Memorial, who participated in the expert discussion.

Perhaps equally important, the Act would require health care providers nationwide to report drug-resistant bacterial infections and their treatment to the CDC through its National Healthcare Safety Network (NHSN). The NHSN requirement would allow infectious disease experts to gain a much better understanding of what antibiotics are being prescribed and what they are being prescribed to treat and how often. As a result, the CDC will be able to amass a more richly detailed evidence-based approach to the use of antibiotics based on provider reported data from across the country.

“Our country has a huge problem with antibiotic resistance, but we all have a part to play,” said Sutton, who is also an assistant professor in Infectious Disease at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “Resistance starts with one person swallowing a pill. Not every cough needs an antibiotic. I want people to ask their doctors if they really need an antibiotic.”

During the panel discussion, Sutton went on to explain that to help prevent the overuse of antibiotics, and the growth of antibiotic-resistance, Northwestern Memorial physicians are trained to ask themselves if they really need to use an antibiotic before writing a prescription. In addition, she explained that the hospital was already working with the CDC through the NHSN to track every antibiotic Northwestern Memorial uses, which is then used to compare that rate with other hospitals.

The May 15, panel discussion included the following experts:

  • Sarah Sutton, MD, medical director of the Antimicrobial Stewardship Program at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and assistant professor in Infectious Disease at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine 

  • Marc H. Scheetz, PharmD, infectious diseases pharmacist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital, and associate professor at Midwestern University Chicago College of Pharmacy

  • Emily Landon Mawdsley, MD, hospital epidemiologist, medical director of Infection Control and Antimicrobial Stewardship, and instructor of Medicine at University of Chicago

  • Latania Logan, MD, pediatric infectious diseases specialist at Rush University Medical Center

  • Marc-Oliver Wright, MT(ASCP), MS, CIC, director of Quality and Infection Control at NorthShore University HealthSystem

A recording of the panel discussion is also available.

For more information about Northwestern Memorial’s work in the treatment of infectious diseases, visit the hospital’s Infectious Disease Center webpage or call 312.926.8358.

Learn more about proposed bill, H.R. 4187, known as The DISARM Act.
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