Antimicrobial resistance is one of the most complex global health challenges today. The world has long ignored warnings that some antibiotics are losing effectiveness after decades of overuse and misuse in human medicine, animal health and agriculture.
Over the last two years, antimicrobial resistance (AMR) has attracted unprecedented attention at the highest political levels.
In fact, in May 2015, at the 68th World Health Assembly, governments adopted a global action plan which identifies a set of strategic objectives. In 2016, the United Nations General Assembly held the first high-level meeting on antimicrobial resistance and passed a political declaration.
The issue has also been on the agenda of recent G7 and G20’s meetings.
In June 2017, the Commission adopted the new EU One Health Action Plan against AMR. This had been requested by member states in Council conclusions from June last year, calling for a new and comprehensive EU action plan on AMR based on the One Health approach.
This new One Health action plan against AMR is motivated by the need for the EU to play a leading role in the fight against AMR and to add value to member states’ actions. This new plan supports the EU and its member states in delivering innovative, effective and sustainable responses to AMR; strategically reinforce the research agenda on AMR and enable the EU to actively promote global action and play a leading role in the fight against AMR.
Its overarching goal is to preserve the possibility of effective treatment of infections in humans and animals. It provides a framework for continued, more extensive action to reduce the emergence and spread of AMR and to increase the development and availability of new effective antimicrobials inside and outside the EU.
The key objectives of this new plan are built on three main pillars: Making the EU a best practice region; boosting research, development and innovation; and shaping the global agenda.
We all know resistant bacteria does not respect borders. Both at EU and national level, there is still much more that needs to be done. That is why I believe that today’s initiative on antimicrobial resistance, and the role of existing new antibiotics is of paramount importance.
Despite great efforts made in the past years, including through public-private partnerships, there are not enough antimicrobials in the pipeline to meet expected needs. The spread of AMR has also contributed to the declining effectiveness of existing antimicrobials. More research is needed to develop new medicinal products, therapeutics and alternative treatments, as well as innovative anti-infective approaches and products for humans and animals.
More research is also needed to advance the repurposing of old antimicrobials, improve their activity and develop new combination therapies, including those to treat multidrug resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). Digital technologies for testing biomedical products and innovation in eHealth should also be scaled.
The Estonian EU Council presidency’s work programme includes a major conference on AMR on 23 November, as well as specific regulatory measures to step away from the brink of a global outbreak.
The main focus will be on the new EU action plan, national action plans and its indicators at EU/national level to measure the status of AMR and/or effect of action plans/recommendations/ conclusions.
AMR is a growing threat that is responsible for 25,000 deaths and a loss of €1.5 billion in the EU every year, and poses a fundamental threat to human health, development, and security.
European health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said that, “AMR is a silent tsunami. Decisive collective actions are needed to avoid slipping backwards towards a pre-antibiotic age where even minor infections and injuries resulted in death.”
This is the time to act. AMR is a massive challenge and in my opinion, vigorous regulatory action is required.
The global response to AMR needs a strong collaboration between sectors including human and animal health, environmental, trade, intellectual property and innovation.
If we fail to do so, the brunt of these will be borne by our children and grandchildren, and felt most keenly in the poorest parts of the world.