Barack Obama recently announced doubling funding to fight antibiotic resistance, which would be more impressive if there wasn’t a significant step that cost the government nothing: ban use of antibiotics for livestock, which currently account for 80% of antibiotics produced. Hell, taxing use of antibiotics in livestock would reduce the problem and generate revenue. Representative Louise Slaughter has introduced a bill to (more or less) do this for five years running and it has gone absolutely no where. So this feels a little like California introducing water restrictions on people while saying nothing about agricultural use, which coincidentally is 80% of their water use.
But maybe Obama’s new money will go to one of the lesser contributors towards antibiotic resistance: people who don’t finish their prescriptions. Researchers are studying a new microchip that sends a signal when it is being digested. They’re using it for severely mentally ill patients, who for various reasons sometimes have trouble staying on their meds (good luck to the first schizophrenic to explain to their new doctor that their old doctor tracked their medication by making them swallow computer chips), but what if we used them for antibiotics?
This isn’t a simple solution. To have it do any good you have to either punish people for not finishing them (which is extremely hard on low income people) or pay them for finishing (hello terrible incentives). People who split prescriptions are often trying to save themselves the doctor’s visit more than the cost of the medication itself, and this doesn’t address that. But it seems like we ought to be able to do something with this.