Latest European data has shown that sales of animal antibiotics have fallen by nearly 50% in the past decade.
Figures released in the European Medicines Agency (EMA) annual report on the European Surveillance of Veterinary Antimicrobial Consumption (ESVAC) show annual sales of antibiotics in the EU/EEA, Switzerland and the UK have decreased by 47% between 2011 and 2021. This is the lowest value every reported.
Sales of antibiotic classes considered Critically Important in Human Medicine also dropped and only accounted for 5.5% of total sales last year. And sales of third and fourth generation cephalosporins fell by 38%, polymyxins by 80%, fluroquinolones by 14% and sales of other quinolones by 83%.
Welcoming the figures, Ivo Claassen, head of EMA’s Veterinary Medicines Division, said: “The positive results reflect the efforts of veterinarians, farmers and the pharmaceutical industry to reduce the use of antibiotics to prevent antimicrobial resistance. It also shows the European Union (EU) policy initiatives and national campaigns promoting prudent use of antibiotics in animals are having a positive impact.”
The ESVAC report also included information on the progress made 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 3 years (2018-2021), the 27 EU Member States have already achieved an 18% reduction – a third of the 50% target set for 2030.
In terms of best practice to ensure transparency, Italy was singled out for implementing a digital traceability system of veterinary medicines with real data from farms in 2019. The UK was also praised for its continuous work to improve the responsible use of antibiotics, achieving significant reductions in their use across livestock sectors.
But pressure group European Livestock Voice said there were still areas of concern. According to Eurobarometer data, almost 3 out of 5 European are unaware of the EU ban on antibiotics to promote farm animal growth. It argues this is 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 knew that the unnecessary use of antibiotics makes them ineffective, increasing the risk of antibiotic resistance.
It argues that an awareness raising campaign around appropriate antibiotic use would be useful, stressing the need to tackle antimicrobial resistance through the One Health approach, acknowledging the links between human health, animal health and the environment.