Combating Resistance: The Case for a Global Antibiotics Treaty

The use of antibiotics by one person can profoundly affect the welfare of other people. I will argue that efforts to combat antimicrobial resistance generate a global collective action problem that only a well-designed international treaty can overcome. I begin by describing the problem of resistance and outlining some market-friendly policy tools that participants in a global treaty could use to control the problem. I then defend the claim that these policies can achieve their aim while protecting individual liberty and state autonomy. Finally, I offer some suggestions for a treaty, drawing lessons from the failure of the Kyoto Protocol on climate change and the success of the Montreal Protocol on ozone depletion.

Published in: Public Health Ethics
2010 Volume 3, Number 1 Pages 13–22