Amnesia is a common, important, but rarely noted side effect of antibiotics. Apart from medical historians, few recall the severe morbidity and mortality once associated with acute bacterial infection. However, decades of antibiotic overuse and misuse have compromised the long-term availability and efficacy of these life-saving therapies. If designed and implemented appropriately, regulation can reduce the risk of bacterial infection, reserve antibiotics for circumstances where they are necessary, and rationalize the use of the most powerful agents. Regulation of antibiotic resistance can be justified, and should be guided, by both efficiency and fairness. A range of regulatory options are available–some information-based, some incentive-based, some command-and-control–each of which has indications, strengths, and weaknesses. A desired set of regulatory strategies must then be matched with the appropriate legal and regulatory institutions. A renewed focus on regulatory and institutional design has significant potential to reduce antibiotic-resistant bacterial infections and increase the effective life of existing and new antibiotics.

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