2015-10-28  

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Non-Human Use of Antibiotics Report

The National Office of Animal Health (NOAH) has commented on the publication of the report published by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Antibiotics (APPG): “Non-human uses of antibiotics: time to restrict their use?”

NOAH believes this report fails to recognise the steps that have already been taken by vets and farmers to prevent disease and minimise antibiotic use on farms where possible.

Non-human uses of antibiotics: time to restrict their use

The UK’s Department of Health 5 year strategy states that the main driver of antibiotic resistance in human medicine is antibiotic use in people, rather than animals. Nevertheless, the animal medicines industry recognises its responsibilities and believes it is essential that veterinary antibiotics are used responsibly to preserve their long term efficacy.

“NOAH fully supports the need for responsible prescribing, by both the veterinary and medical professions”, says NOAH chief executive Dawn Howard.
“On the veterinary side, NOAH has been very actively involved with responsible use initiatives, such as the RUMA Alliance, which publishes guidelines supporting responsible use and has produced an action plan on livestock antibiotic resistance to implement Government strategy.“

Whilst backing proactive initiatives to support the development and use of vaccines and other disease prevention measures where they are possible, NOAH believes antibiotics are, and will remain, necessary for vets and farmers to treat infectious diseases, where they occur, in order to preserve animal health and welfare.

Farmers and vets work to reduce the need for the use of antibiotics through vaccination where available and by appropriate on-farm animal husbandry. There are occasions when the use of antibiotics is, however, necessary and justifiable. Farmers are legally obliged, under animal welfare legislation, to ensure that animals are cared for appropriately and without delay if they become ill.

Some of the ideas suggested in the report could be counter-productive. The report advocates measures to reduce stress in animals to try to reduce susceptibility to disease. Yet it criticises the use of the highly regulated route of treatment to groups of animals through medicated feed and water.

The treatment of animals via medicated feed and water is an appropriate route of administering medicines to animals in a controlled manner and subject to a prescription from a veterinary surgeon. The use of these products in this manner including dosage requirements is considered and approved by the independent regulatory authorities who license and authorise veterinary medicines.

Dawn Howard explained:
“There are many animal-friendly reasons why medicines can be prescribed in this way by a veterinary surgeon.
“For groups of animals, fish or birds there is less stress than injection or individual oral dosing. Where treatment is needed, the vet supplies a prescription for treatment through medicated feed or through the water, depending on the product being used. The whole process is highly regulated through European and national legislation.”

The report also suggests certain classes of antibiotics should be reserved for humans. NOAH believes that veterinary surgeons need to retain the full range of currently licensed antibiotics in order to be able to treat the range of conditions that affect animals. If they were not available, then animal welfare would undoubtedly suffer.

Removal of some classes from the veterinary sector would place undue selective pressure on the remaining classes which could increase resistance to those classes – having the opposite effect to what the committee probably intends.

Dawn Howard says: “NOAH is disappointed not to have been consulted in advance of the publication of the Report. We believe that responsible use of veterinary antibiotics is the best way to help preserve these precious medicines for us all, without compromising the health and welfare of our animals.”

NOAH

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