Antibiotic resistance is a serious health threat that puts a strain on Canada’s health care system. The main reasons are the need for more expensive drugs and increased and longer hospital stays.
At Risk Groups
Certain groups are at risk of developing more frequent infections and are thus at risk of getting antibiotic-resistant. Such people may also require more expensive treatments. At risk groups include homeless persons, older people in assisted living facilities, and premature babies whose immune system is not mature yet. Other at risk groups include persons with poor hygiene and people living in day care centres and healthcare facilities. Healthcare professionals are also at risk of more frequent infections, including veterinarians, nurses, and physicians.
The number of people dying due to antibiotic resistance is unknown but healthcare professionals admit that more people die from infections today compared to 5 years ago. Drug resistance is expected to result in more than 2 million excess deaths in the postindustrial countries, as shown in a document by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, member of which is Canada.
Canada’s Health Care System
Antimicrobial resistance is putting a strain on Canada’s health care system due to the fact that more people need intensive care. Enterobacteriaceae and other bacteria are now resistant to all or most antibiotics. MRSA or methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is a serious health threat, and patients are at a 64-percent higher risk of dying compared to patients having the non-resistant strain. In fact, research shows that MRSA alone costs healthcare facilities between $42 and $59 million a year.
What Can Be Done
The key to combating antimicrobial resistance is developing new antibiotics that take between 5 and 10 days to fight an infection. The problem is that pharmaceutical companies are unwilling to invest $1 billion in developing a new drug. Developing medications for chronic conditions is more profitable, especially drugs taken for life for hypertension and high cholesterol. Pharmaceutical companies are also unwilling to invest in developing antibiotics due to the fact that bacteria may develop resistance within a relatively short period of time. This means that concerted effort is required not only in Canada but also globally. In Canada, the provincial and federal governments must focus on policies and programs that encourage manufacturers to develop new antibiotics.
The Canadian government has developed a Federal Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance and Use to limit and prevent the spread of antimicrobial resistance. Specific measures have been outlined to be implemented by bodies such as the National Research Council, Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Public Health Agency of Canada, and others. One of the main goals is to develop a pan-Canadian framework in cooperation with industry, animal health, agricultural and healthcare partners at the territorial, provincial, and federal level. Engaging and cooperating with stakeholders is the key to addressing the problem. The focus is on regulation of antibiotics as well as on approval of medications for coverage and delivery of medical services. Existing surveillance systems should also be improved to assess use, the scope of the problem, and emerging threats. Two such systems are functioning in Canada – the Canadian Nosocomial Infection Surveillance Program and Canadian Integrated Program for Antimicrobial Resistance Surveillance. The goal is to improve infection control and prevention across Canada through innovation, advocacy, and collaboration.
While different agencies have been established to limit the spread of antibiotic resistance, financing has been found to be insufficient. Only $6.9 million have been spent on the development and implementation of programs in 2016 – 2017, pointing to the fact that funding is a major issue.
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