No action today, no cure tomorrow
On 15 November, the 2013 European Antibiotic Awareness Day (EAAD) was once again put in the spotlight in Brussels by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and partners through a dedicated conference and social media event, highlighting its key messages on prudent antibiotic use. At the same time, worrying new developments in the areas of antibiotics consumption and antimicrobial resistance (AMR) were brought into light to emphasise the urgent need for more comprehensive, multi-level cooperation to combat this major public health threat.
The event was divided in two sessions: the first included presentations from representatives from the European Commission (DG SANCO, DG Research and Innovation), WHO/Europe, the Swedish Research Council, and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC). The second provided an opportunity for stakeholders to discuss how they are responding to the antibiotic challenge.
The perspective of the institutions
Paula Testori-Coggi, Director General of DG SANCO, stated that 25,000 patients died every year due to infections caused by multi-resistant bacteria, amounting to an annual cost of €1.5 billion. She also referred to the new legislation recently approved in that area that provides a legal basis to impose better control in animal treatment. She referred to the recent Eurobaromater data on AMR which show slight positive developments about the self consciousness of EU citizens.
ECDC Director Marc Sprenger explained that thanks to the collaboration with the WHO Regional Office, over 43 EU countries will mark the EAAD, with the United States, Canada and Australia joining as well. He referred to the recently published ECDC data on AMR, and stressed the importance of the awareness of young medical students and their education on the appropriate use of antibiotics. In his statement he pointed out that there is an urgent need for all European countries to have in place national guidance documents, so that hospitals faced with carbapenem-resistant infections can take action to control the spread and minimise the impact of outbreaks on patients. Together with infection control measures, improving antibiotic use is the most important action needed to greatly slow the very worrying development and spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria.
Mr Sprenger stated that the ECDC’s 2011 Surveillance Report showed some alarming data given that AMR was increasing in many EU countries. Worryingly, the percentage of last-line antibiotics resistance was also increasing. For instance, in Italy it rose from 15 to 27% within one year. As a consequence, such patients have fewer options available, and treatments, such as certain operations, cancer therapy, etc. are no longer possible. Moreover, hospital superbugs remained a serious problem. Overall, there are wide variations in antibiotic consumption patterns across Europe, with low annual per person consumption in Estonia and high rates in Greece and other Southern European countries in spite of the crisis. He recalled the Commission’s 2011 Action Plan which pursued a ’’one health approach’’ comprising humans and in animals.
Ruxandra Draghia-Akli, Director of the Health Directorate of DG RESEARCH, talked about the EU research strategy on AMR and noted that key actions in the Action Plan were about promoting public-private partnerships in research and reinforcing the R&D effort in general. In response to the challenge, the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) launched an AMR programme, ’’New drugs for bad bugs’’, to speed up delivery of new antibiotics to patients and AMR is also a Horizon 2020 research priority.
Guénael Rodier, WHO Europe’s Director of the Division of Communicable Diseases, Health Security and Environment, pointed out that bacteria and AMR do not know borders and WHO can offer an international forum to collect relevant data. He mentioned that more information is needed from the Eastern part of the European region - mainly from countries outside of the EU. He stressed that action is needed now and that if there is no action today, there will be no cure tomorrow.
Mats Ulfendahl, Secretary General for Medicine and Health, explained how the joint research can build alliances between efferent EU member states which are interested in AMR research. He pointed out that more and better research is needed and transnational cooperation is the answer to the AMR challenge.
Stakeholder statements on the importance of AMR
In this section, participating organisation were invited to deliver a short opening statement about the work they did to support the efforts against antimicrobial resistance in Europe. Apart of EPHA, there were representatives from other organisations such as Copa-Cogeca, the Standing Committee of European Doctors (CPME), the Pharmaceutical Group of the EU (PGEU), the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), and the European Patients’ Forum (EPF).
The European Antibiotic Awareness Day (EAAD) is an annual European public health initiative managed by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) that takes place on 18 November to raise awareness about the threat to public health of antibiotic resistance and prudent antibiotic use. The latest data confirms that across the European Union the number of patients infected by resistant bacteria is increasing and that antibiotic resistance is a major threat to public health.
AMR as a public health threat
As the European Commission stated, 25,000 patients die annually as a result of infections caused by bacteria that exhibit Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR). In addition to the human cost incurred,the loss of productivityand increase in healthcare expenditure costs EU health systems approximately 1,5 billion € annually.
For further information:
Joint Conference on Antimicrobial Resistance: State of play of the 5 year action plan (11 December 2013)
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