EMA: Decrease of 47 percent in animal antibiotics sales
This is the latest data from the European Medicines Agency‘s (EMA) annual report on the European Surveillance of Veterinary Antimicrobial Consumption (ESVAC). This is important news and demonstrates a clear understanding of the importance of good antibiotic stewardship from the animal sector. However, the latest Eurobarometer survey on Antimicrobial Resistance paints a rather concerning picture of the general public’s understanding of this recognised global health challenge.
For example, according to Eurobarometer data, almost three out of five Europeans are unaware of the EU ban on antibiotics to promote farm animal growth. The results of the Eurobarometer survey are very worrying because they show that there is still a huge lack of awareness on the subject. Only 1 in 2 respondents knew that antibiotics are ineffective against viruses, and only 3 in 10 Europeans knew that the unnecessary use of antibiotics makes them ineffective, increasing the risk of antibiotic resistance.
For this reason, it is important to increase awareness of the appropriate antibiotics use and the need to tackle antimicrobial resistance through the One Health approach, acknowledging the interlinks between human health, animal health and the environment. Earlier this year, new EU rules were enacted to ensure that antimicrobials crucial for human medicine remain effective by prohibiting their use in veterinary medicine.
According to EMA data, since 2011, the 25 European countries examined by the report have substantially reduced overall sales of veterinary antibiotics in animals. For the full 2011-2021 period, a decrease of 47% was observed, reaching the lowest value ever reported, and some major livestock-producing markets have decreased by over 50%.
In terms of best practices to ensure transparency, in 2019, Italy implemented a digital traceability system of veterinary medicines with real data from farms. This is an “important step towards the development of an adequate antimicrobial management program“, EMA wrote. The EU agency pointed out that “data show progress towards achieving the objectives” of the National Plan against Antibiotic Resistance, adopted in 2017.
Also, the UK is a brilliant example of continuous work to improve the responsible use of antibiotics, achieving significant reductions in their use across livestock sectors. As highlighted in an FAO report, keys to success include the development of strong relationships between producers, veterinarians and government, industry-led target-setting, cross-sectoral learning, and sharing of experiences. This has built a collective sense of ownership and responsibility, resulting in effective behaviour change for improved stewardship.
This ESVAC report included, for the first time, information on the progress towards the European Commission’s Farm to Fork Strategy target to reduce the sale of antimicrobials for farmed animals and aquaculture in the EU. In only three years, between 2018 and 2021, the 27 EU Member States achieved an 18% reduction, approximately one-third of the 50% reduction target set for 2030.
As Ivo Claassen, Head of EMA’s Veterinary Medicines Division, said: “The positive results reflect the efforts of veterinarians, farmers and pharmaceutical industry to reduce the use of antibiotics to prevent antimicrobial resistance. It also shows that European Union policy initiatives and national campaigns promoting prudent use of antibiotics in animals have a positive impact”.
EMA launched the ESVAC project in September 2009, and all participating countries voluntarily provided information on sales of veterinary antimicrobials.
Some countries also describe their main measures to address antimicrobial resistance and how these activities contribute to the observed changes in sales in their country. The measures include national action plans, national campaigns for the prudent use of antimicrobials in animals, restrictions on the use of certain antimicrobials in food-producing animals, or measures to control the prescription of antimicrobials in animals.
Under Regulation (EU) 2019/6, reporting data on the sales and use of antimicrobials in animals will become a legal obligation for EU Member States and the Agency. The new requirements will apply to data from 2023 onwards.
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