There is growing concern that the increasing capacity of some bacterial infections to resist treatment by antibiotics – often referred to as the wider term antimicrobial resistance (AMR) - and the lack of new antibiotics being made available, presents a threat to both human and animal health.
The reasons why there are so few new antibiotics becoming available are complex; however, in their absence, we need to be careful how we use the existing effective treatments. Animal and human health sectors face the same issues; in fact there has been no new class of antibiotics in animal medicine for a quarter of a century. Therefore all sectors work closely to ensure the strongest antibiotic stewardship, preserving the effectiveness of those we have.
The animal health sector believes that an approach that balances public health and the environment and the need to treat sick animals is the best approach (also known as the One Health approach). This is why it is working with policy makers and regulators to find an approach that preserves the ability to treat both people and animals and encourages the development of new prevention and treatment options.
AnimalhealthEurope lends its support to the EU One Health Action Plan, published in June 2017, which establishes new measures to assist Member States, SMEs and our research community in finding new solutions and preserving the effectiveness of existing antibiotics for both animals and humans.
The animal medicines industry in Europe actively promotes the Responsible Use of antibiotics: in the context of biosecurity; good housing and ventilation; good hygiene; appropriate nutrition; regular monitoring of animal health and welfare; animal health planning; use of diagnostics; vaccination; and using and maintaining the pharmacovigilance system when necessary; as well as the use of antibiotics under veterinary prescription.
While it may seem tempting to restrict antibiotic use to humans, the unfortunate reality is that animals also develop bacterial infections and need treatment. Without antibiotics, disease will spread and animals will suffer. Responsible Use means allowing veterinarians to exercise their professional judgement to decide the most appropriate treatment - including antibiotics. In addition, restricting the use of antibiotics in animals would have other consequences than the impact on animal welfare. It would have a substantial impact on Europe’s agri-food economy, at a time when other factors - including global warming - are affecting food production.
AnimalhealthEurope is also a member of important initiatives such as EPRUMA, the European Platform for the Responsible Use of Medicines in Animals, which is devoted to ensuring best practice through responsible use of medicines. This multi stakeholder platform allows veterinarians, farmers and agri-cooperatives, animal medicines and feed manufacturers, and professionals working in animal health and sanitary security to work together.
We are also a long-term supporter of European Antibiotic Awareness Day, the annual European public health initiative that takes place on 18 November to raise awareness about the threat to public health of antibiotic resistance and the importance of reponsible antibiotic use.