I had the pleasure yesterday of participating in an invitation-only event at the White House on antibiotic stewardship. In March, President Obama released a National Action Plan to Combat Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria, which outlined key actions to be taken or overseen by the Departments of Health and Human Services (HHS), Defense, State, Agriculture, and Veterans Affairs; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); and other federal agencies. The event was part of that initiative. The morning session started with comments from Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, Director of the CDC Tom Frieden, and the Assistant to the President for Science and Technology Policy John Holdren.
The Forum included almost 150 leaders from many sectors of society, including CEOs and other officials of various healthcare organizations; agriculture, food, and pharmaceutical industries; consumer groups and other stakeholders all working together toward the development of solutions to minimize the spread of bacterial resistance, and to improve antibiotic use. It was truly an honor to be there representing our members and the patients they serve.
As you know, ASHP and its members have played major roles in antimicrobial stewardship and infection control efforts for many years. Pharmacists have integral roles on hospital antimicrobial stewardship teams, and from a public health perspective are major forces in protecting our increasingly fragile antibiotic armamentarium. It was clear to me as I listened to the speakers and participated in the breakout sessions that the White House, CDC, and the other stakeholders all viewed pharmacists as an essential part of the solution to the problem of bacterial resistance and believed that pharmacists can greatly contribute to improving antibiotic use and thus patient care.
During the White House Forum I spoke to the work ASHP and its members have done for decades to improve antimicrobial use in hospitals, clinics, and other settings, adding that ASHP and its members are prepared to help advance this important effort in any way we can. I noted that ASHP National Survey data shows that only about 50 percent of hospitals have antimicrobial stewardship programs in place, and that we would like to work through the President’s initiative to help to significantly increase that number. I also noted that electronic health records need to be further enhanced to better support stewardship efforts, and that new or expanded methods to provide smaller facilities with access to stewardship programs through telehealth and others means need to be considered and supported.
I believe there was enthusiasm among the various stakeholders and senior members of the Obama administration and CDC about these ideas, and we look forward to working with them soon to help prioritize and take action on these and other ideas brought forth by the leaders present at the Forum.
In a letter sent by ASHP to the CDC prior to the Forum we made a number of commitments, including conceptualizing the development of pharmacy-specific metrics for antibiotic stewardship programs that could potentially become part of a larger national effort and database. We also discussed the roles ASHP could play in fostering interdisciplinary education, standards development, research, and collaboration.
I believe that something very important for our patients and overall public health started yesterday at the White House Forum on Antibiotic Stewardship. Further, we know that pharmacists are a necessary part of the solution to this significant public health and patient safety problem. I look forward to engaging the expertise and passion of ASHP’s exceptional members in taking advantage of this important opportunity to preserve and foster the growth and development of lifesaving antibiotics.