2011-2020: More than 40% decrease in sales of antimicrobials for use in animals

News 23/11/2021

The  PDF icon annual report on the European Surveillance of Veterinary Antimicrobial Consumption published by EMA shows that European countries have substantially reduced the use of antimicrobials in animals. According to data from the 25 countries that provided input for the full 2011-2020 period, overall sales of veterinary antimicrobials in European countries were 43% lower in 2020 than in 2011. 

While an increase of 6% in overall sales for the 25 countries in 2020 compared to 2019 was registered, data for the next years are necessary to better understand this observation.

“The decrease in sales of antimicrobials for use in animals over ten years shows that EU policy initiatives combined with guidance and national campaigns promoting prudent use of antimicrobials in animals are having a positive effect,” said Ivo Claassen, Head of EMA’s Veterinary Medicines Division. 

Sales of those antimicrobials that are considered critically important in human medicine, decreased noticeably between 2011 and 2020 and accounted for only 6% of total sales in 2020. In particular, sales of third- and fourth- generation cephalosporins dropped by 33%, polymyxins by 76%, fluoroquinolones by 13% and sales of other quinolones dropped by 85%. These classes include antimicrobials used to treat serious infections in humans that are caused by bacteria resistant to most other antimicrobial treatments. In animals, they should be used with restrictions in order to preserve their effectiveness and mitigate the risk to public health, as indicated in the Antimicrobial Advice Ad Hoc Expert Group (AMEG) categorisation.

The eleventh ESVAC report presents data from 30 EU/EEA countries (including the UK as an EU Member State during the calendar years covered in the report) and Switzerland. All participating countries voluntarily provided information on sales of veterinary antimicrobial medicinal products. In order to present more recent data, and in preparation for the timelines for the reporting of sales and use data for antimicrobials in animals as required by Regulation (EU) 2019/6, data for both 2019 and 2020 were collected and presented in this ESVAC report. 

For each of the participating countries there is a separate section presenting sales trends by antimicrobial class. Some countries have described their main activities to combat antimicrobial resistance and how these activities have contributed to the observed changes in sales in their country. These measures include national action plans, national campaigns for prudent use of antimicrobials in animals, restrictions on use of certain antimicrobials in food-producing animals, or measures to control prescription of antimicrobials in animals.

The ESVAC project was launched by EMA in September 2009 following a request from the European Commission. Since then, the Agency has coordinated and supported European countries in establishing the standardised and harmonised reporting on the volume of sales of veterinary antimicrobial medicinal products. The ESVAC report is published annually and is used as a reference source of information for scientists, veterinarians and other health professionals, risk assessors and policy makers in the EU Member States on the topic of antimicrobial resistance. Under Regulation (EU) 2019/6, reporting of sales and use data for antimicrobials in animals will become a legal obligation for EU Member States and the Agency. The new requirements will apply to data from 2023 onwards.

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