The congressional bill has been on Capitol Hill for over 2 years now, and the interested stakeholders are continuing their lobbying efforts to get it passed.
In a letter to Congress today, 237 organizations have signed their support of the Pasteur Act, a bill aimed at reducing antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Specifically, the Pasteur Act is a bipartisan, bicameral piece of legislation aimed to incentivize innovative drug development targeting the most threatening infections, improve the appropriate use of antibiotics, and ensure domestic availability when needed.
The involved organizations that signed the letter are wide ranging stakeholders including biopharmaceutical companies, medical associations, and universities.
The letter was sent to the chairs and ranking members of Energy & Commerce, Ways and Means, HELP and the PAPHA leads. In the letter, the organizations called on Congress to do their part in addressing this permeating health care issue that does not discriminate. “…we urge you to include the Pasteur Act in any moving legislative vehicle this year, including the reauthorization of the Pandemic and All Hazards Preparedness Act (PAHPA),” they wrote.
The Pasteur Act was initially introduced in Congress by US Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) and Todd Young (R-Ind.) in September of 2020. Bennet and Young along with and Representatives Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) and Drew Ferguson (R-Ga.) reintroduced the bill in June 2021.
The Pasteur Act would establish an innovative payment contract where the federal government invests in highly novel antibiotics and antifungals through installment payments in exchange for free access to developers’ drugs in government programs once available. This payment contract is the proposed subscription model. “Pasteur’s subscription model is an innovative way to pay for novel antimicrobials that will revitalize the pipeline and support appropriate use," the letter stressed.
To understand how the subscription model works check out this recent Contagion interview.
The bill is designed to encourage much-needed investment and ensures the nation’s health care system is prepared to treat the increasing number of antibiotic- and antifungal-resistant infections.
Additionally, the letter mentioned the state of antimicrobial development and the lack of new antibiotics addressing the most serious threat: gram-negative pathogens.
“Despite the urgent and increasing need for novel antimicrobials to treat superbugs, the antimicrobial ecosystem is broken and unable to meet patient needs. The current pipeline has fewer than 50 antibacterial therapeutics in clinical development worldwide–only a handful of which are for the most threatening gram-negative pathogens–a critical area of need. We know that the pipeline is already inadequate to address current resistant threats, let alone those that will come in the future.”
This latest action is a continuation of momentum that interested stakeholders are working on towards getting the bill passed. Amanda Jezek, senior vice president of public policy and government relations at IDSA, spoke to Contagion at ID Week last October and remains optimistic that the legislation will be passed.
At that time, there were 65 bipartisan cosponsors in Congress for the bill.
When talking to staff of republican and democratic congressional members there is a bipartisan appeal to the Pasteur Act according to Jezek. “Everywhere we go, people say, ‘yes we need action on AMR,’” Jezek stated. “We are excited to keep building the momentum and get this bill across the finish line and send it to the President’s desk.”
Scope of the Problem
AMR has been an ongoing public health problem for many years. A global analysis published in The Lancet back in January 2022 estimated that antimicrobial resistance was the leading cause of death worldwide in 2019. Investigators estimated that resistance itself caused 1.27 million deaths that same year, and that antimicrobial-resistant infections played a role in 4.95 million deaths.
In 2020, US hospitals experienced a 15% increase in AMR infections and deaths, though pandemic-related data gaps suggest that the total national burden of AMR may be much higher.
In the letter's closing remarks, the stakeholders urged passage of the bill this year. As of right now, however, no timetable has been set to discuss the bill in Congress, so it remains undetermined when, or if, the House or Senate will do so.