Halting Antimicrobial Resistance

To tackle the problem of antimicrobial resistance (AMR), the Commission has listed a series of legislative and non-legislative policy actions it plans to take over the next five years and will also contribute to research and development of new antimicrobials in the EU. Its “Five-Year Action Plan” on AMR lays out some broadly-defined policy goals in both the veterinary and human-health domains.

Background

The Five Year Action Plan is the latest in a series of measures taken by the Commission to tackle AMR. The use of antimicrobials in animals for growth promotion has been banned since 2006 and the European AMR Surveillance Network (EARS-Net) provides reference data for the monitoring and surveillance of AMR. The Commission also funds a number of research initiatives under its 7th Framework Programme including the Innovative Medicines Initiative.

There is clear inter-institutional support for action in this area. The European Parliament has taken a proactive role on AMR, having adopted two separate Resolutions in 2011: one on the public health threat of AMR and the other on antibiotic resistance. The Council also adopted Conclusions on AMR in 2008 and again in 2009.

General Objectives

The aims of the action plan are to ensure prudent use of antimicrobials, introduce effective ways to prevent microbial infections and develop effective antimicrobials or alternatives for human and animal infections. The Commission is also eager to increase cooperation with international partners and to build on the success of the Transatlantic Task Force on Antimicrobial Resistance (TATFAR). The Joint Programming Initiative on AMR, approved by the Council in October, is to target AMR through cross-border collaboration on research and innovation in the area.

Appropriate Use of Antimicrobials – Actions 1, 2 & 3

Encouraging the prudent use of antimicrobials in human and animal health is an essential part of the Commission’s Action Plan. In cooperation with ECDC, the Commission will provide better education and training for healthcare workers and also for the wider community. A Report on the progress of these initiatives and the merits of introducing new EU guidelines will be published in 2015.

The Commission will review of the regulatory framework for veterinary medicines and medicated feed and come forward with new initiatives in this area to ensure that appropriate warnings and guidance appear on labels. Restrictions on the use of antimicrobials in veterinary medicine will also be considered.

Prevention of Microbial Infections – Actions 4 & 5

The Commission will provide better guidance and training on infection prevention and control for health care workers. It will report on the progress of this in targeting the spread of microbial infections in the coming years. As regards animals, the new Animal Health Law will address the prevention of diseases and reducing the use of antibiotics in veterinary medicine.

Monitoring and Surveillance – Actions 9 & 10

The surveillance systems on AMR and antimicrobial consumption for both animals and humans will be strengthened. The Animal Health Law proposal, due in 2012, will establish a new legal basis for the monitoring of AMR in animals. It is also expected that the European Surveillance of Veterinary Antimicrobial Consumption (ESVAC) will be extended. The Commission, in partnership with the relevant agencies, will harmonise the human and veterinary surveillance so that data can be easily compared.

In the field of human medicine, the Commission will work with the ECDC to improve access to AMR data and ensure the efficient transfer of the European Surveillance of Antimicrobial Consumption (ESAC) to the agency. An EU funded project on Antibiotic Resistance and Prescribing in European Children will be developed with the support of ECDC.

Research and Development – Action 6, 7 &11

The Commission will promote and fund research efforts by the pharmaceutical industry to identify and develop new antibiotics for human and animal medicine. The Joint Programming Initiative on AMR brings together 18 countries who will carry out collaborative research on AMR across Europe. Commissioner Geoghegan-Quinn announced that the next research funding programme, Horizon 2020, will fund further research in this area.

International Cooperation – Action 8

The Commission intends to work closely with the World Health Organisation (WHO) in introducing and implementing regional strategies on AMR. The existing EU-US cooperation, TATFAR, will be maintained and improved. The Commission will also promote the implementation of Codex Alimentarius international AMR standards.

Survey Effectiveness of Research – Action 12

An EU-wide survey assessing the impact of awareness campaigns will be carried out. The Commission will also monitor the changes, if any, in the behaviour of the general public as regards antibiotics.

Next Steps

The Council and the European Parliament will have an opportunity to formally respond to the Communication. Considering the proactive role of the Parliament on this issue, it is likely that it will discuss the Report in the coming months.