Issue No. 12: The Cost of Inaction on AMR 

The human cost of drug-resistant superbugs is alarming

Right now, 700,000 people die each year as a result of antimicrobial resistance (AMR). And as antibiotics grow less effective in the years ahead, the annual death toll could reach 10 million by 2050

Each life lost to AMR is a tragedy. And preventing unnecessary death and suffering is the single biggest reason to make the fight against drug-resistant infections a top global priority. 

But it isn’t the only reason. The potential economic impact of AMR in the near future — both in the United States and around the world — is staggering.

This point is important as global leaders consider strategies for containing the growth in AMR. The policy response to this threat will require significant financial investments from governments, non-profits, and private companies. But however expensive these policies might be, the cost of doing nothing, is orders-of-magnitude worse.

AMR’s contribution to healthcare spending

One way in which AMR impacts the national and global economies is by contributing to overall healthcare spending. And a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in collaboration with researchers at the University of Utah School of Medicine, looks precisely at this dimension of the AMR crisis.

The report is not comprehensive, as it is confined to just six of the 18 most serious antibiotic resistant threats facing the American health system. It also looks solely at costs related to treating these patients, including the costs of medical personnel and equipment. It does not examine the downstream healthcare costs that may arise after initial hospitalization, including return visits or other medical complications. Nevertheless, the researchers find that these half-dozen multi-drug-resistant infections currently add $4.6 billion to U.S. health costs each year. 

These costs will increase quickly as the AMR crisis grows ever more serious in the coming years. By 2050, says the World Bank, the enormous burden of drug-resistant infections could raise health spending by 6% in wealthy countries, by 15% in middle-income countries, and by 25% in low-income countries.

And these figures don’t capture the broader economic consequences of AMR. In particular, the estimate leaves out the impact drug-resistant infections will have on the ability of people to work.

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