The animal medicines industry cannot reduce the need for antibiotics alone. Alongside our industry commitments, we also call upon the public sector and international organisations to join us in this effort to reduce the need for antibiotics by improving prevention, detection and treatment of animal disease.
Supportive public policies can drastically change farmer access to new treatments, preventative tools and veterinary expertise, which will allow them to improve animal health and reduce the need for antibiotics.
This will require decisive policy action across the following four areas:
Farmers are facing continually evolving animal health threats, with new diseases spreading faster than ever due to natural disasters and global trade. As the animal medicines industry works to deliver new technologies to tackle emerging threats swiftly and effectively, the accompanying regulatory process must also adapt, otherwise the opportunity to respond to a health threat could be lost.
Delivering products into smaller regional markets such as East Africa or South Asia, for example, poses a unique financial challenge. Having a medicine approved for use through the regulatory process and ensuring the infrastructure is in place to deliver it to the market often costs more than a company can recoup. This makes it financially unviable to deliver the newest technologies to many farmers in developing countries who need it the most.
At the other end of the spectrum, animal medicines are advancing faster than ever before with tools like modern vaccinations, stem cell therapies, monoclonal antibodies and more, opening up a world of new prevention and control treatments. Regulations must keep up to allow new products and technologies to be assessed and licensed in a timely manner. Delays can mean veterinarians, livestock farmers and animals must wait longer for an appropriate treatment or product, which could increase disease risk and the need for antibiotics.
Strengthening the regulatory process requires:
Consumers are increasingly interested in the provenance and production of their food. The food chain, from retailers or farmers, are working to provide more detail, but there remains a disconnect between marketing campaigns promoting sustainably sourced foods and the threat of disease risk among livestock. This creates confusion for consumers.
For example, indoor rearing of poultry as a biosecurity measure can be an effective way to limit exposure to disease, but consumers are increasingly expecting birds to be raised primarily outdoors. This can significantly increase disease risk as seen in the 2016 outbreak of bird flu in Europe, which was spread by wild birds who swiftly infected outdoor poultry. Policymakers must support public awareness and understanding of animal disease risks, and the necessary measures to prevent outbreaks.
Strengthening this awareness requires:
Livestock contributes 40 percent of global agricultural output, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), yet the percentage of development spending devoted to livestock is less than 0.25 percent. With 1.3 billion people worldwide relying on livestock for their livelihoods and food security, the funding available to support the health of livestock must increase.
Financial assistance is vital to encourage smallholder farmers to invest in preventative medicine such as vaccines. Effective, international disease monitoring also needs crucial funds to limit the risk of a disease emerging that requires antibiotics for treatment.
Finally, investment is also needed for research and development to allow scientists to keep up with emerging disease threats.
Strengthening livestock funding requires:
It is impossible to reduce the need for antibiotics and tackle AMR without proper access to veterinary expertise. Only with the right expertise can livestock producers improve the prevention, detection and treatment of animal disease.
However we simply do not have enough veterinarians nor veterinary paraprofessionals. This is especially acute in low- and middle-income countries where many animals will never see a veterinarian in their lifetime. This puts farmers in the challenging position where they must make medical decisions for their livestock without adequate training. Increasing access to veterinary expertise must be at the top of the global agenda.
Strengthening access to veterinary expertise requires:
Actions by the public sector and international organizations across these four areas can help improve prevention, detection and treatment of animal disease on a national and international scale, reducing the need for antibiotics on farms across the globe. Combined with the actions of our industry, this can make a significant impact in the fight against AMR and improve responsible antibiotic use for all our benefit.