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Sales of veterinary antibiotics in Europe have almost halved in a decade

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has released its latest annual report on the European Surveillance of Veterinary Antimicrobial Consumption (ESVAC) for 2021, showing that since 2011, European countries have substantially reduced sales of veterinary antibiotics.

Based on data from 25 countries that continuously provided information for the entire period 2011-2021, global sales of veterinary antibiotics decreased by 47% in this interval, reaching the lowest value ever reported.

Sales of classes of antibiotics considered critically important in human medicine also declined markedly between 2011 and 2021, accounting for only 5.5% of total sales in 2021.

For their part, sales of third and fourth generation cephalosporins fell by 38%, those of polymyxins by 80%, those of fluoroquinolones by 14% and those of other quinolones by 83%. These antibiotics must be used prudently and responsibly to preserve their efficacy and mitigate potential risk to public health, as indicated by the ad hoc Antimicrobial Advisory Expert Group (AMEG) categorisation.

“The positive results reflect the efforts of veterinarians, farmers and the pharmaceutical industry to reduce the use of antibiotics to prevent antimicrobial resistance. It also shows that European Union (EU) policy initiatives and national campaigns promoting the prudent use of antibiotics in animals are having a positive impact,” says Ivo Claassen, Head of the EMA’s Division of Veterinary Medicines.

This ESVAC report includes, for the first time, information on progress made towards the European Commission ‘s Farm to Fork Strategy goal of reducing the sale of antimicrobials for farm animals and aquaculture in the EU.

In just three years, between 2018 and 2021, the 27 EU Member States have already achieved an 18% reduction, roughly one third of the 50% reduction target set for 2030.

The “farm to fork” strategy is at the heart of the European Green Deal and aims to make food systems fair, healthy and environmentally friendly.

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