Europe needs urgent response to antimicrobial resistance

Written by Piernicola Pedicini on 21 May 2015 in Opinion

Parliament has backed a report on safer healthcare in Europe, which is desperately needed as drug resistance is set to kill more than cancer by 2050, writes Piernicola Pedicini.

Between eight and 12 per cent of patients admitted to hospitals in the EU suffer from adverse events while receiving healthcare. This can and must be avoided. These figures represent around three million people who each year are affected by healthcare associated infections (HAI), at a cost to European healthcare systems of €2.7bn every year.

The indiscriminate application of austerity measures by some member states to the health sector has had a negative impact on patient safety. For example, the reduction of medical personnel or of hygiene specialists increases the risk of patients being hit by HAI, resulting in higher expenses for the healthcare sector.

The report calls for lifelong training and education programmes for health professionals, awareness-raising campaigns and a multidisciplinary approach to treatment built on evidence-based medicine. It also calls for concrete measures to report adverse events and expose them, together with systems for collecting and evaluating data. And it requests the integration of telemedicine with healthcare at home, in order to rationalise costs and increase the 'humanisation' of care.


The upstream threat to patient safety is political interference in the appointment of managers and other health professionals, which implies lower quality standards in healthcare. This is why the report stressed that member states should "ensure that health managers are appointed on the basis of their merit and not of political affiliation".

Today, we are faced with a major threat to human healthcare - antimicrobial resistance. According to the scientific literature, each year 25,000 European citizens die of causes related to increased resistance to antimicrobial agents and, in 2050, this number is estimated to rise to about 10 million - more than cancer deaths.

Urgent measures are needed, such as investment by the pharmaceutical industry in the 'real development' of new antimicrobial drugs, while at the same time researching alternative natural methods to fight drug resistance, establishing an appropriate microbiological diagnosis before prescribing any antibiotics and prohibiting sales without a prescription. 

There also need to be awareness-raising campaigns targeting all population groups to promote an appropriate and responsible use of antibiotics. We must also limit the use of antibiotics in veterinary medicine, including by decoupling veterinarians' right to both prescribe and sell antibiotics, eliminating prophylactic use, as well as strongly restricting the metaphylactic use of antibiotics in animals. 

Finally, I am proud that this report represents a first successful application of direct democracy, as citizens were able to directly propose amendments via on online platform launched by the Five Star Movement during the drafting phase of the text and some of these were included in the final text.


About the author

Piernicola Pedicini (EFDD, IT) is parliament's rapporteur on safer healthcare in Europe: improving patient safety and fighting antimicrobial resistance

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