Industry responds to antibiotics in animals report
Published:  24 December, 2015

The world’s animal medicines sector has united in response to Lord O’Neill’s report on Antimicrobials in Agriculture

The report highlighted that antibiotic resistance is a challenge not just for the UK or Europe, but is a global one. O’Neill declared that an international target should be set to reduce the use of antibiotics in animals, although he did say that it should be down to individual countries to achieve such goals.

“We agree with Lord O’Neill that antimicrobial resistance is an important global issue that must be addressed with sound evidence-based policies,” said NOAH [National Office of Animal Health] chief executive Dawn Howard.

“Whilst we recognise the need for us to play our part in working to maintain the effectiveness of these vital medicines, we believe that there are numerous flaws in the report.”

She said that instead of setting a global target, the full commitment of countries implementing the global WHO [World Health Organisation] Antimicrobial Resistance Action Plan would be a more effective method of addressing the issue.

“There are a number of reasons, set out in our critique document, why we believe an arbitrary global reduction target is dangerously counterproductive,” added Howard. “Different circumstances within different countries mean that one size very definitely does not fit all – as local disease, animal husbandry, economic and climate conditions will impact on countries abilities to change existing practices.”

Howard also claimed that there are failures in the report regarding expression of data on antibiotic use in animals. “When comparing human and veterinary use of antibiotics, it failed to acknowledge the vastly different population sizes as well as the fact that livestock such as cattle and pigs weigh more than people and this will require a larger volume of antibiotic to treat an infection than a person will. Data from the UK shows that when adjusted for population and weight, human use of antibiotics is more than double that of animals.”

According to Howard, data collection of use patterns could help to identify and support the best practices. “Our sector has taken a leading role at UK, European and global levels to ensure our products are used judiciously and responsibly,” she added.

“There is already a proposal to improve data collection and surveillance systems in the draft new European Veterinary Medicines Regulation, which NOAH, along with others, fully supports. We also believe that there needs to be enhanced surveillance of resistance prevalence to obtain better insights into the potential relationships between use, management practices, and resistance.”

By promoting the responsible use of antibiotics, the sector hopes to limit further antibiotic resistance.

“In the UK consumers have come to encourage and expect high standards of welfare which means that animals need to be looked after and treated when they are sick,” concluded Howard. “If necessary, this may mean that a vet will prescribe an antibiotic to help prevent pain and suffering.”