Latest ESVAC report highlights overall progress as well as UK efforts to reduce antibiotic use

While UK farm animal antibiotic sales data for 2016 have been out for almost 12 months, the European Medicines Agency’s Eighth ESVAC report on Sales of veterinary antimicrobial agents in 30 European countries in 2016 is the first opportunity to review progress to reduce, refine or replace antibiotics across all European countries in that year. While different countries face very different challenges which make it difficult to compare progress, the ESVAC report is useful for ensuring the UK is making appropriate and adequate contributions to responsible use of antibiotics which are important to both human and animal health.

Overall, it’s very welcome news that antibiotic sales for European farm animals have fallen so significantly over the past 6 years – by some 20%. The UK’s significant reduction in antibiotic use over the past two years means that it was among the lowest users of antibiotics overall in 2016, but particularly among countries that have large domestic populations and /or highly productive farm animal sectors.

To quantify this in antibiotic sales per weight of livestock (in kg) at time of treatment (mg/PCU), the UK’s 2016 sales of antibiotics to food producing animals was 45mg/PCU compared with the European average of 125mg/PCU. The UK had the lowest colistin sales of any country maintaining access to this highest priority antibiotic, at just 0.02mg/PCU against the European average of 6.4mg/PCU; the EU’s recommended maximum level of use for colistin is 1mg/PCU. And UK sales of the other highest priority antibiotics – fluoroquinolones and 3rd & 4th generation cephalosporins – also show good progress, at 0.2mg/PCU and 0.1mg/PCU respectively compared with European averages 2.7mg/PCU and 0.2mg/PCU.

While the downward trend in usage across Europe is a positive start, it is important to ensure that animals continue to be able to receive the most appropriate treatment when necessary. For this reason the EU must promote and support the development of alternative treatments and management tools to deliver improvements in animal health and welfare and public health.

UK (mg/PCU) EU Average (mg/PCU)
Total Use 45 124.6
Fluoroquinolones 0.2 2.7
3rd and 4th Gen Cephalosporins 0.1 0.2
Polymyxins (colistin) 0.02 6.4

UK antibiotic sales data for 2017 are due to be released in late October 2018.