Health awareness

Antimicrobial resistance: a problem without a simple answer

A Point of View by Joan R. Butterton, M.D., associate vice president, clinical research, infectious diseases

October 1, 2019

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Antimicrobial resistance is a significant public health threat. Antimicrobial resistance, or AMR, is a naturally occurring phenomenon where bacteria build up defenses against the antibiotics we use to treat them. Medicines for bacterial infections become less effective, and it becomes harder for patients to fight serious infections. The problem of AMR is growing, and yet few pharmaceutical companies today are actively working on developing new antibiotics.

After a century of research and development in infectious diseases, our company knows there is no single or simple answer to the complex problem of antimicrobial resistance. AMR is difficult to manage because bacteria are smarter than we are. They divide so quickly – it’s the way their biology works – and keep mutating and developing resistance to available drugs. As the currently available antibiotics become less effective because of AMR, millions of lives are threatened. The need for new medicines that are effective against multi-drug resistant bacteria is significant and urgent.

Working to stay a step ahead

For over 80 years, our company has brought forward new treatments each decade in every area of infectious disease and in multiple modalities, including small molecules, vaccines and monoclonal antibodies. Today, we continue to explore novel approaches to antimicrobial therapies.

“We continue to mobilize our expertise, our resources and our resolve with the goal of staying one step ahead of some of the world’s greatest killers.”

Joan Butterton

Part of our company’s core mission

The reason I went into infectious diseases is that this field involves all parts of the body and touches all of our lives at one point or another. That’s why it is so gratifying for me to work in our research laboratories – because infectious disease is something that has always been a part of Merck’s core mission.

Today, I’m proud to continue that tradition as we continue to explore novel approaches to antimicrobial therapies for the health and well-being of people from every corner of our world.

The public is counting on our company to play an important role in addressing the urgent threat of antimicrobial resistance. We will continue to mobilize our expertise, resources and resolve with the goal of staying one step ahead of some of the world’s greatest killers. We continue to push the boundaries of science with the hope and expectation of inventing for the single greatest purpose – life.