Antibiotic use is dropping while the fight against resistance goes on *H&H Plus*

  • Vets and the government have welcomed a “significant” drop in the amounts of antibiotics sold for animals — but there is still work to be done.

    A Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) report into antibiotic resistance and sales, released last month, shows a 53% reduction in sales of antibiotics for food-producing animals over the past four years, with a 68% drop in sales of highest-priority, critically important antibiotics in the same time.

    In equine-only sales, there has been a 64% drop since 2017, 85% since 2014.

    VMD chief executive Peter Borriello described the drop as a “remarkable achievement”, but warned that action on resistance is “for everyone”, as the key in reducing this is reducing use.


    During the World Health Organisation’s world antibiotic awareness week (18-24 November), British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) CEO David Mountford told H&H: “The significant drop in licensed equine antibiotic sales is very encouraging and we are proud of the commitment shown by the equine veterinary profession.”

    But he warned that the VMD figures do not tell the full story.

    “These figures can’t identify sales of antibiotics not specifically licensed for horses and, because many antibiotics we (safely) use in the horse are primarily licensed for other species, we can’t be sure the large fall in sales of licensed equine antibiotics is reflected across the board.

    “If we are to safeguard the health of our horses it’s imperative that we all maintain our efforts to protect our vital antibiotic resources.”

    As H&H has reported, resistance is increasing in human and veterinary medicine, and there are few new antibiotics being produced. This means there is an increasing population of “superbugs”, which in some cases cannot be treated. This could mean more horses and people dying (news, 15 November 2018).

    A Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS) spokesman said the college had, with other animal health and veterinary organisations including BEVA, been encouraging vets to use antibiotics responsibly, “in light of the clear evidence around the growth of antibiotic resistance”.

    “We are glad to see the message has clearly hit home, as demonstrated by the recent fall in antibiotic use identified in the report,” he told H&H.

    A spokesman for RCVS Knowledge, the RCVS’s charity partner thats aim is to advance veterinary knowledge, added: “We are heartened by the impassioned response from veterinary professionals to a challenge of such critical importance, not only to animal health but also to wider society. The focus on monitoring antibiotic use and considering more appropriate forms of treatment, especially by the equine and farm sectors, demonstrates the indispensable value of evidence-based approaches to medicine.”

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