HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Akron Univ. School of Law

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Drug Misuse and the Worldwide Impact of Drug Resistance

The worldwide misuse of drugs is contributing to drug resistant diseases according to a series of articles written by the Associated Press as a result of a six-month investigation. 

• The AP examines growing resistance to HIV drugs: "Ten years ago, between 1 percent and 5 percent of HIV patients worldwide had drug resistant strains. Now, between 5 percent and 30 percent of new patients are already resistant to the drugs. … The story of HIV mirrors the rise worldwide of new and more deadly forms of killer infections, such as tuberculosis and malaria." The article includes information about the rising rates of resistance in sub-Saharan Africa, and the challenges in treating drug resistance in developing countries. The news service adds, "The United Nations estimates $25 billion will be needed to fight AIDS worldwide in 2010, but probably only half that sum will be available. That estimate doesn't account for drug-resistant strains, which could cost $44 billion by 2010" (Mason/Mendoza, 12/29).

• In a second story, the AP examines growing concerns among public health experts over drug-resistant malaria on the Thai-Cambodian border. According to the AP, too little medicine, substandard medicine and counterfeit medicines lead patients to develop drug-resistant forms of the virus, which is then spread to others by mosquitoes. The article details the problems with counterfeit and outdated drugs in Asia and Africa, and the efforts of public health officials to contain the drug-resistant forms of the virus (Mason/Mendoza, 12/28).

• A third AP story examines how antibiotic use in animals is contributing to drug resistance. "Researchers say the overuse of antibiotics in humans and animals has led to a plague of drug-resistant infections that killed more than 65,000 people in the U.S. last year – more than prostate and breast cancer combined," according to the news service. "And in a nation that used about 35 million pounds of antibiotics last year, 70 percent of the drugs – 28 million pounds – went to pigs, chickens and cows. Worldwide, it's 50 percent." The article explores why farmers give antibiotics to their animals and growing pressure by some U.S. lawmakers to regulate such practices (Mason/Mendoza, 12/28).

• In a fourth story, the AP examines how the efforts by Norway's public health system to scale back prescriptions for antibiotics has helped decrease the number of drug-resistant staph infections in the country. The article details how increased access to antibiotics in developed countries over time led to the development of more resistant bacteria and why public health experts believe Norway's model can be replicated around the world (Mason/Mendoza, 12/23).

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