Parliament provides input for future communication
By Sophie Petitjean | Friday 28 October 2011
The European Parliament calls on the European Union to step up its efforts to combat antimicrobial resistance. In a non-legislative resolution adopted on 27 October, MEPs invite the European Commission to include the following in its future communication on this subject, to be presented on 17 November: 1. cautious use of antimicrobial agents both for humans and for animals, reserved for uses effectively needed for actual treatment of disease, with the correct dosage, dose intervals and duration; 2. monitoring and surveillance of antimicrobial resistance; 3. research into and development of new antimicrobial agents and alternatives; and 4. links with measures to combat resistance to antimicrobial agents in veterinary medicines, animal feedingstuffs and crop-growing.
Antimicrobial resistance is the resistance of a micro-organism to an antimicrobial agent to which it was previously sensitive. Resistant micro-organisms (bacteria, viruses and certain parasites) can resist the effects of antimicrobials, such as antibiotics, rendering classic treatments ineffective and allowing infections to persist and to spread. “According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), an estimated 25,000 Europeans die each year as a result of drug-resistant infection,” said French MEP Elisabeth Morin Chartier, who contributed to the drafting of the report for the EPP group. “The E.coli crisis, which resulted in 76 deaths in Europe last June, showed the urgency of the situation. Besides its aggressive nature, the E.coli bacteria had the distinctiveness of being incredibly resistant to medicines,” she added, arguing for an ambitious action plan from the Commission.
The Commission stated in response that it would present a new five-year strategy on antimicrobial resistance, on 17 November, the eve of European Antibiotic Awareness Day. “Our goal is to mitigate the risk of resistance while supporting prudent use of antimicrobials,” said the Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, John Dalli. The communication, he added, will aim to help states to combat the sale of antibiotics without a prescription and to remedy weaknesses at European level by drafting guidelines. It will also raise the question of antimicrobial resistance among animals in the context of revision of the legal framework for veterinary medicines.
The EP resolution also calls for particularly ambitious measures on this latter aspect. It asks the European Union - which already bans the use of antibiotics to stimulate growth in animals – to present legislative proposals for phase-out of the prophylactic (preventive) use of antibiotics. MEPs consider that the use of so-called ‘last resort’ antibiotics targeting problematic human pathogens should be permitted in agriculture “only under licensed conditions combined with resistance monitoring, preferably on an individual basis”.
For the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industry Associations (EFPIA), the EP resolution is positive because it “clearly sets out both causes and solutions, and most importantly endorses the need to reverse this trend”. “Only by pooling our research efforts will we succeed,” commented EFPIA Director-General Richard Bergström. The federation supports a new model to encourage antimicrobial innovation that should include: 1. the development of improved diagnostics; 2. innovative approaches to the assessment of new treatments for serious infections; and 3. increased and more targeted public sector investment.
Antimicrobial resistance is the resistance of a micro-organism to an antimicrobial agent to which it was previously sensitive