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The Ethics of Fighting Drug Resistance

”The fight against antimicrobial resistance is based on an ethical imperative to protect human, animal, and environmental health, not just today, but for future generations. And yet tackling AMR poses its own ethical challenges and dilemmas, which policymakers need to address sensibly, transparently, and urgently”, writes Christian Munthe.

The  commentary article by Christian Munthe, professor of philosophy at the Department of Philosophy, Linguistics and Theory of Science, University of Gothenburg, was published by Project Syndicate. Read full text

”Drug resistance threatens the effective treatment of a growing list of communicable diseases – from bacterial infections to viral to and fungal diseases. When people recklessly use antibiotics to fight a common cold, when farmers use antibiotics to boost livestock productivity, or when pharmacological factories emit antibiotics into the environment to cut production costs, the bacteria that the drugs are designed to kill become immune. The more antibiotics consumed and emitted, the faster resistance develops, leading to “superbugs” that jeopardize human health, both by raising the risk of massive deadly epidemics and by compromising medical services, such as surgery and cancer treatment, that rely on effective antibiotics.

This scary reality continues to frustrate health-care professionals. To be sure, there are solutions to the drug resistance crisis: restricted consumption, better diagnostics and disease surveillance, and expanded clinical development of new drugs are three. And some initial coordinated action has been taken in the WHO global action plan. But every fix has an ethical component, and four years after the WHO’s assessment, the ethical roadmap for addressing this medical emergency remains dangerously ill-defined”, writes Munthe.

Project Syndicate delivers commentaries to a global audience. They translate authors’ commentaries from English into 12 languages (Arabic, Bahasa - Indonesia, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Mandarin, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish).