Economics in the fight against bacterial resistance to antibiotics

Can economics help us to understand, or even fight, bacterial resistance to antibiotics?

Doctor and patient demand for a drug is related to its quality.

Markus Herrmann, an economics researcher at Université Laval, is working on creating a link between health sciences and economics. His research involves applying mathematical and economic models to topics that are generally the domain of health sciences, such as bacterial resistance to antibiotics and the behaviour of drug manufacturers and users.

He examined the factors that influence antibiotic supply and demand, in order to develop a model that takes into account doctor and patient behaviour. He observed, among other things, that doctor and patient demand for a drug is related to its quality. Thus, an antibiotic that becomes less effective will be prescribed less often and will eventually be replaced by other antibiotics.

These findings led the researcher to consider drugs as a bioeconomic resource, much like natural resources. As it becomes increasingly difficult to create new antibiotics, the portfolio of existing antibiotics needs to managed intelligently to counter the threat posed by bacterial resistance. The possibility of applying economic tools such as taxes, subsidies and tax credits to antibiotics could even be considered at some point. Such a measure could have an impact on antibiotic supply and demand, contributing to the intelligent management of their use.

The results of this work have been published in an article in Resource and Energy Economics, and are the subject of an upcoming article in Health Economics.