The White House announced a plan last week to combat the growing threat of antibiotic resistance. The president’s plan outlines a national strategy to bring the antibiotic resistance crisis under control through incentives for new drug development, better diagnostics to reduce antibiotic misuse and increased tracking to identify resistance as it develops.

The announcement coincided with the release of a report from the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology, Combating Antibiotic Resistance. According to the report, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the annual impact of antibiotic-resistant infections on the U.S. economy is $20–35 billion in excess direct healthcare costs, with additional costs to society for lost productivity as high as $35 billion a year. The report warns that antibiotic resistance is a global public health challenge with wide-reaching repercussions that could have a significant effect on national security, economic growth and patient care.

One of the major recommendations in the report includes improving the appropriate use of antibiotics, which the NACDS Foundation is currently working on through its research grant with the University of Nebraska College of Pharmacy and the Ferris State College of Pharmacy to allow patients to be tested for strep and influenza in a consortium of 50 participating pharmacies in the Midwest. One of the specific goals of the NACDS Foundation’s project is to help cut down on antibiotic resistance. The point-of-care testing in pharmacies helps pharmacists diagnose patients on the spot, which could prevent the misuse of unnecessary antibiotics or antivirals.

NACDS Foundation President Kathleen Jaeger said, “One significant aspect of our research is that 90 percent of the patients who seek the flu test at the participating pharmacies actually test negative.” Jaeger said when a patient does test negative for the flu; the pharmacist can then help the patient chose an over-the-counter symptomatic remedy, instead of providing the antibiotic or antiviral.

Jaeger said that studies have shown that when patients visit other healthcare settings, it is very possible they will inappropriately receive a prescription for an antibiotic or antiviral, which provides no benefit to the patient and can contribute to the growing national threat of antibiotic resistance.

The White House’s announcement that it plans to confront a public health crisis caused by antibiotic resistance lends credence to the research the NACDS Foundation continues to support to improve patient health and the impact pharmacists can make at the point-of-care.