Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotics and similar medicines, collectively called antimicrobials, have greatly reduced illness and death from bacterial infections for almost nine decades. But, as a result of increased use—and misuse—of these medicines, infectious organisms are adapting to them, making the medicines less effective, or completely ineffective.

Antimicrobial resistance, particularly antibiotic resistance, is one of the most pressing public health issues facing the global community. Every year around the world, millions of people are infected with antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This prolongs treatment, which increases healthcare costs. It also results in hundreds of thousands of deaths. Without immediate and radical action on the way antibiotics are used and marketed, antibiotic resistance will continue to increase. Eventually, even ordinary cuts and scrapes could become deadly.

Although research and development (R&D) of new antibiotics has never been so crucial, fewer antibiotics are coming onto the market. In the United States alone, 30 new antibiotics were marketed between 1983 and 1992 compared to only 12 from 1998 to 2007. Unless we overcome the gap in antibiotics discovery, antibiotic resistance will continue to become one of the greatest threats to humankind.

Health Action International advocates for international leadership and action to prohibit the unethical promotion of antibiotics by the pharmaceutical industry. We also promote new, needs-driven and open research and development models based on the principle of de-linkage (separating price from research and development costs and sales volumes). And because solutions to antibiotic resistance will only be found using the ‘one health’ approach, we work with partners in the agriculture, environmental and health sectors to press for responsible antibiotics use in farming, a better ecological understanding of human-bacteria interaction, and stronger health systems to monitor and report antibiotic use and resistance.

For more information on our work around antimicrobial and antibiotic resistance, visit the following pages on our site: