As reported by the European Commission in its recent evaluation of the action plan against the rising threats from antimicrobial resistance (AMR), AMR is a growing problem globally and brings huge societal and economic challenges.
It causes over 25,000 deaths a year and incurs over €1.5bn of healthcare costs and productivity losses. This data shows that action is urgently needed at national, European and global level.
In my role in the European Parliament as a Vice-Chair of the agriculture and rural development committee, a substitute member of the environment, public health and food safety committee and rapporteur on the proposal on medicated feed, I have dealt several times with issues related to AMR.
I believe that when it comes to AMR, the problem is twofold; on the one hand, the misuse and overuse of antibiotics have increased the rate at which resistance is developing, and on the other there is a lack of new effective drugs. Therefore, we need to find solutions to support better rewards for innovation while promoting the responsible use of antibiotics agents in both animal and human medicine.
This is why I recently tabled a question to the Commission asking whether it intends to propose legislation that provides incentives to drive research in human medicine, stressing the importance of this going forward.
While in the context of the current review of the framework on veterinary medicinal products the Commission acknowledged the need to boost innovation in the animal sector, concrete initiatives on incentives for the development of antibiotics, diagnostics and vaccines for human use are still missing.
While the Commission did not address this specific question in its answer, I do hope that the new action plan on AMR it will present next year will refer to the need to improve incentives for R&D to combat AMR.
In addition to the issue around incentives, which should be linked to appropriate stewardship, I believe that the new action plan should stress the need for a strong cross-sector commitment to tackle AMR.
This point was raised by EU member states in the Council conclusions adopted last June under the Dutch EU Council presidency, which called for a new action plan based on the 'one-health', approach including human and animal health as well as the environment.
Furthermore, international cooperation in fighting AMR is crucial, as declared in the United Nations General Assembly held in September 2016.
Within the animal welfare field, the Commission has recently put forward a number of legislative proposals including the veterinary medicinal products, medicated feed and animal health law.
While it's clear that the Commission has limited competence in healthcare, I believe that the discussion at an EU level predominately focuses on veterinary medicines and agriculture and should in fact extend to human medicine.
To conclude, more incentives for the development of new effective antibiotics, strict control on responsible and prudent use of antibiotics and the commitment of all the sectors will be critical if we want to be successful in tackling AMR. Now it is up to the Commission to include these proposed actions in the new action plan.