(Bloomberg) -- The Obama administration released a plan Friday to halt the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the wake of a deadly outbreak at a Los Angeles hospital in February.
The plan seeks to reduce the rates of “superbug” infections in the next five years by pushing doctors and farmers to limit over prescription of antibiotics, according to a White House fact sheet. The federal government will invest in new antibiotic research and require hospitals to increase infection controls.
Drug-resistant bacteria causes an estimated 2 million illnesses and 23,000 deaths a year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The University of California at Los Angeles Health System said Feb. 18 one such superbug infected seven patients and was a contributing factor in two patient deaths.
“We should do everything in our power to ensure that antibiotics remain effective,” President Barack Obama said in an interview with WebMD posted Friday. “These vital drugs have saved countless lives over the past century. It’s up to us to make sure they keep saving lives for years to come.”
Under the White House plan, doctors who accept Medicare and Medicaid will be required to report their antibiotic prescription patterns, and the government will give health care providers real-time data about antibiotic resistance in their area in a bid to limit over-prescription.
The Food and Drug Administration and Department of Agriculture will also work on new rules to limit the use of medically important antibiotics on farms, where they are given to animals raised for human consumption.
The CDC would increase screening of those arriving in the U.S. from countries with high rates of drug resistant tuberculosis. The administration would also create a regional public health network to test and store resistant bacterial strains.
Obama has proposed spending $1.2 billion to combat superbugs, which would nearly double the amount of federal dollars devoted to the effort.
“There are parts of this plan that we can implement on our own right now, and wherever we can act without Congress, we will,” Obama said. “But to get the whole job done, we need Congress to step up.”
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