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Remarks on One Year Anniversary of Antimicrobial Resistance Challenge

Alex M. Azar II
Global AMR Challenge Event
September 23, 2019
New York City, New York

Continuing our fight against AMR with the same vigor we’ve seen over the last year will lead to lower rates of infection, lower healthcare costs, reduced human suffering, and lives saved.

As Prepared for Delivery

Good evening, everyone. On behalf of the United States government, thank you all for joining me here tonight to reflect on and highlight the real progress we have made in the fight against antimicrobial resistance over the last year.

The year-long initiative we launched last year around this time, the AMR Challenge, marks a historic step and sets a promising precedent.

The success of the Challenge over the past year demonstrates what is possible, in the relatively short term, when we have real commitment to the fight against this pressing public health threat.

Since the launch of the AMR Challenge under the leadership of the CDC last year, governments from around the globe, NGOs, pharmaceutical and biotech companies, and other private-sector businesses have made nearly 350 commitments to fight AMR.

I know that many of those who made that commitment are here tonight, so I want to personally thank you for stepping up.

As you all know, the United States has eagerly engaged on antimicrobial resistance—both in the public and private sector. The Trump Administration has made AMR a top priority both in our global and domestic work, and the responses have been encouraging: We saw over 225 commitments to the AMR Challenge made in the United States alone, spanning organizations across all 50 states.

I’ll highlight a few notable examples. Of the 10,000 healthcare facilities represented by organizations committed to the challenge, I’ll mention one by way of example: Premier Incorporated, a large healthcare alliance of 4,000 U.S. hospitals and 175,000 medical providers.

They have reduced the rate of a particular healthcare-associated infection by 46 percent in 500 hospitals since 2015 through coaching calls, site visits, webinars, and a new website focused on AMR.

They’re just one of the many healthcare providers that have taken these kinds of steps.

We’ve also seen commitments from major food and animal organizations. McDonald’s and Yum! Brands, specifically, are committing to reducing antibiotic use in the poultry and beef they use for their products.

McDonald’s has committed to use its market share power to reduce antibiotic use in the livestock it uses for beef products, and Yum! aims to cut its antibiotic use in beef by 25 percent by 2025, having already made huge strides in their poultry products.

For those of you who have not delved deeply into what it takes to curb antibiotic use in livestock—though I know some of you here this evening have—extending these policies to beef is a particular challenge, so we appreciate these elevated, ambitious commitments.

We’ve also seen commitments from NGOs, like World Vision, which is committing $100 million by 2021 in 35 countries in Africa to improve water and sanitation services in rural health care facilities, helping to curb the spread of antimicrobial-resistant bacteria and fungi.

Finally, we’ve seen work from governments and the private sector together.

The FDA recently approved a critical drug regimen to treat drug-resistant TB, an effort that has been supported by the TB Alliance, advanced by NIH work, and benefited from the FDA’s Limited Population Pathway process.

While these are certainly steps in the right direction, our work is only beginning. That’s why, later this year, the CDC will release its AR Threats Report, giving us a clearer picture of the significant work that is still needed to prevent resistant infections and stop the spread of germs.

Continuing our fight against AMR with the same vigor we’ve seen over the last year will lead to lower rates of infection, lower healthcare costs, reduced human suffering, and lives saved.

So, this year, components of HHS, the department I run, rolled out a number of new initiatives to help revitalize the antibiotic market, increase stewardship practices, incentivize innovation in research and development, and use risk-based assessments to inform all antimicrobial use in human and animal health.

For instance, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, has developed a bundle of reforms to secure Medicare beneficiaries’ access to antimicrobials in the short term, while seeking to realign financial incentives to sustain innovation in this space for the long term.

CMS is also now exploring implementing CDC recommendations for hospital-based Antibiotic Stewardship Programs into the regulations that govern hospitals’ Conditions of Participation in Medicare.

I’m encouraged by the real progress we’re making, but, as I noted earlier, our work has only just begun. The real work begins again when we depart from here and return back to our home countries—whether to jobs in government or in the private sector.

I am committed to continuing this work in the coming years at HHS. One of the key elements of the vision President Trump has for our healthcare system includes tackling impactable public health challenges.

AMR is certainly a challenge where we can make an impact, through better stewardship and further development of antimicrobials. But it’s also the kind of issue where, if we don’t make an impact, a lot of other health challenges get even harder.

We need commitments from all sectors to continue fighting this threat, and so, in the spirit of the AMR Challenge, I want to offer a further challenge to all of you.

I challenge everyone here to renew your efforts in your own world and consider what more you can do to combat AMR. On top of that, consider how you can better collaborate with other countries in this effort. We need both individual and collective action to combat the looming threat of AMR and make a lasting difference for the citizens we represent and serve.

Together, we can protect future generations from serious but avoidable losses to our health and prosperity. Thank you again for having me here tonight. I look forward to celebrating more successes and achievements with you in the years to come.

Content created by Speechwriting and Editorial Division 
Content last reviewed on September 24, 2019