Canada's Original Think Tank

Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic Resistance

Antibiotic Resistance

Published on 1 March 2017
Hansard and Statements by Senator Art Eggleton

Hon. Art Eggleton:

Welcome, minister. My question is also on the coming crisis regarding antibiotic resistance, as my colleague has asked you about, the animal aspect of it. I’m going to ask you about another aspect.

We know the World Health Organization, on Monday of this week, released the first list of the world’s most dangerous antibiotic resistance superbugs that pose the most serious threats to human health. They did so to push governments to put in place policies that promote research and development into a new antibiotic discovery by both publicly funded agencies and also by the private sector.

Antibiotic resistance is growing and we’re running out of treatment options. There have been no new classes of antibiotics discovered that have made it to market since 1984.

There are predictions that without these new antibiotics, much of the currently available health care will be at risk. It is estimated that within a generation, without new antibiotics, deaths from drug-resistant infection could reach 10 million a year.

Three years ago, the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology released a report on prescription pharmaceuticals, as Senator Ogilvie has pointed out, in which we examined the growing problem of antibiotic resistance. One of our recommendations was for the federal government to promote research by the pharmaceutical industry into the development of new antibiotics by providing various incentives to them.

Another was a call for the creation of a funding program at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research specifically for antibiotic development.

What is your government doing to address this serious issue?

Hon. Jane Philpott, P.C., M.P., Minister of Health: Thank you again for the question and for raising further facts that need to be taken into consideration. The fact that, as you said, by 2050 it’s estimated there will be 10 million deaths a year, possibly outpacing cancer as a cause of death at that point, is something we absolutely must pay attention to.

You raised some important facts. You touched a bit on the concept of antibiotic stewardship. I will say there is some very good work being done in Canada on that matter now. We’re supporting organizations like Choosing Wisely who are spreading better concepts of people understanding the risks associated with inappropriate antibiotic use. That is one area where we are working with organizations that are doing this good work.

You also raised the interesting matter of innovation and the fact that there needs to be opportunities to find those new products. In fact, other countries have done some very creative things. If I’m not mistaken, the U.K., for example, has a new award that is potentially out there for somebody who wants to shoot for the stars and develop new antibiotics.

We have had preliminary discussions about how we can continue to support health research. Obviously, we are going to continue to invest through the Canadian Institutes for Health Research. I spoke this year to the U15 university presidents and said one of my very top priorities that I would encourage them to address is antimicrobial resistance, and they are doing so.

I hope that you will continue to get the message out that investment in health research, particularly in this incredibly important area, should be a priority. I will certainly be advocating for that.