The Developing an Innovative Strategy for Antimicrobial Resistant Microorganisms Act—DISARM Act—introduced in the Senate this summer is touted as a measure to protect existing antibiotic therapies and support innovation toward new ones. According to co-sponsors, Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Bob Casey (D-PA), the act is aimed at improving critical Medicare reimbursement for antibiotics and promoting their appropriate use. As such, they say the legislation has the potential to stabilize the antibiotics market, spur the development of new infection-fighting drugs, and preserve the effectiveness of existing medicines.

The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA) provided guidance that informed the legislation, which will help to ensure that patients can access new antibiotics when they are clinically appropriate, require hospitals to establish antibiotic stewardship programs, and spur improved reporting of antibiotic use and resistance to more rapidly identify challenges and inform best practices.

IDSA reports that as many as 162,044 people die annually from infections that are resistant to current medicines, making antimicrobial resistance the third leading cause of death in the US. Other risks associated with antimicrobial resistance include complications of cancer chemotherapy and organ transplants.

To combat resistance, healthcare systems now emphasize limited and short duration of antibiotic use. IDSA and others worry that this reduced usage will negatively impact research and development toward new antibiotics—potentially limiting returns on drug development investments. Currently, about 80 percent of antibiotic research and development is handled by small companies.

Among provisions of the DISARM act are higher reimbursement for new antibiotics, requirements that hospitals receiving increased payments for antibiotics monitor their use, data reporting to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and establishment of stewardship programs.