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Editorial

Resisting unnecessary use of antibiotics

4 November 2015

Anti-microbial resistance is a global health threat to health care systems’ ability to cope with infections effectively. A global report published by the WHO in 2014, revealed to the world that antibiotic resistance (the most common form of anti-microbial resistance) was putting all of us at risk and needed to be dealt with now. According to the report, failure to act would lead us into a world where antibiotics could become obsolete and dying from banal infections could once again become a likely event.

Where do we stand today?

A WHO report, a European Commission Action plan, a European Parliamentary Report and an EU/US partnership later, and we have yet to significantly move the needle. The status quo remains mainly unchanged: AMR still kills, it still hampers the control of infectious diseases, it causes significant costs to health care systems and it still poses a threat to future medical advancements. The resistance of some pathogens now reaches over 50% in certain countries, and new resistant strains are emerging and spreading rapidly.

In the European Union, Norway and Iceland, for example, 400,000 resistant infections are estimated to occur every year leading to about 25,000 deaths, according to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control[1]. Various practices are at the root of these alarming statistics. Human actions like the inappropriate use of antibiotics, poor infection controls or even the neglect of basic hygiene (hand washing) have accelerated the emergence and spread of AMR.

Furthermore, global tourism, the transfer of patients between facilities and the trade in animal products contributes to this global health threat.

Collaboration is the only way forward

The 53 countries in the WHO European Region adopted a strategic action plan on AMR in 2011 in which they set out 7 strategic objectives. Three years later, the WHO report went even further, proposing 10 additional measures to deal with resistance. This time around, focus was on collaboration of individuals, health workers and pharmacists, policy-makers and industry.

The European Parliament followed with a Report on Safer Healthcare in Europe in 2015 urging Member States to increase cooperation, and asking the European Commission to take the lead with a post-2016 Action Plan on AMR. But how can we move the needle and begin the process of concretely reducing unnecessary use of AMR in Europe?

As the European Commission begins it post – 2016 planning, we at Health First Europe believe that there are key actions to undertake.

  • Multidisciplinary guidelines on patient safety that look at how to reduce the risks of antimicrobial resistant infections throughout the patient pathway.
  • Standardised collection of data on AMR infections.  It is the only way we can truly understand where we currently stand and how we can improve and meet the targets set out by the WHO.
  • Information and communication to patients about AMR infection and risk patients so they understand the importance of using antibiotics only when prescribed and for the specific amount of time prescribed, and well as never sharing them with others or using leftover prescriptions.

The EU was formed to find solutions to European challenges like AMR.  It has the ability to bring together stakeholders, gather data, interpret data and provide a pan-European solution for AMR. Now it’s up to us as stakeholders to support the EU to do this work.



[1] http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/disease-prevention/antimicrobial-resistance/antimicrobial-resistance

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