The widespread use of antimicrobials is threatening their effectiveness by increasing microbial resistance, says the health committee. It wants the problem to be tackled by using the drugs more cautiously, improving animal welfare and creating new business models to stimulate innovation.
MEPs vow to promote prudent-use guidelines aimed at reducing non-essential and inappropriate exposure to antimicrobials in human and veterinary medicine, livestock farming, agriculture, aquaculture and horticulture, in a non-binding resolution drafted by Anna Rosbach (ECR, DK).
The committee highlights the need to restrict the use of antimicrobials classified as critically important by the World Health Organisation (WHO) and calls on the European Commission to draft rules for the veterinary sector to limit the use of third and fourth generation antimicrobials that are critically important for humans.
Warning against a return to “pre-antibiotic era”
"If we do not take measures to address antimicrobial resistance (AMR), it will threaten our ability to conduct what is now routine medical practice which relies on antimicrobials to protect patients from infection”, said Ms. Rosbach after the vote. “In the words of the World Health Organization, AMR threatens a return to ‘the pre-antibiotic era", she added.
"The availability and efficacy of antimicrobials must be maintained, existing therapies must be protected, and we must implement additional measures to facilitate drug development and improve research", she said.
The report was adopted unanimously and will be voted in plenary in December in Strasbourg.
Given the lack of antibacterial drug development, MEPs stress that new business models should be developed in order to delink investment in R&D for new antibiotics and diagnostic tools from sales transactions. The possibility of subsidising research for new antimicrobials should be examined.
Use of antimicrobials in animal husbandry
MEPs say that livestock farming and aquaculture should focus on disease prevention rather than the prophylactic use of antimicrobials.
They stress the need to review provisions related to animal welfare as animal health can be improved while reducing the use of veterinary pharmaceuticals. The Commission is invited to re-evaluate provisions on maximum animal density in livestock farming.
Legislation on veterinary medicines should be updated in order to limit the right to prescribe antimicrobials to professionally qualified veterinarians only, and to separate the right to prescribe from the right to sell antimicrobials in order to eradicate economic incentives to prescribe.
Prevention and control
As infection prevention and control is a vital cornerstone in the fight against anti-microbial resistance, MEPs call on EU countries to improve infection control and promote good standards of hygiene, especially hand hygiene. They highlight the need for a change of attitude, practice and education among patients, farmers, pharmacists, medical doctors, veterinarians and other practitioners.
In the chair: Matthias Groote (S&D, DE)