Despite progress in certain veterinary issues, there is little evidence of a reduction in the health burden of antimicrobial resistance.

UM – 12/2019

The European Union (EU) has adopted a holistic ‘One Health’ approach in the fight against antimicrobial resistance, focusing equally on human health, animal health and the environment. This makes sense because of their many interrelationships and influences. According to a special report prepared by the European Court of Auditors, there is little evidence to suggest that the overall health burden of antimicrobial resistance has been reduced.

No demonstrable results

The Court examined how well the Commission and the relevant EU agency, in this case the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), have managed their resources to combat antimicrobial resistance (AMR). It also examined whether the framework for prudent use of veterinary antimicrobials and for monitoring antimicrobial resistance in food was being properly applied and how research in this area was supported. It concluded that neither Member States nor the Commission have consistently used outcome indicators, that data on healthcare associated infections is incomplete and that there is insufficient knowledge of AMR in the environment.

Visits not welcome?

However, there have been some improvements. Sales of antimicrobial veterinary drugs fell by 20% in the period from 2011 to 2016. In the Court’s view, however, this figure is still too high and varies greatly one Member State to another. The ECDC conducts country visits to support national authorities in the fight against AMR. These visits are carried out ‘by invitation’ but are expected to have a significant impact on the development of appropriate measures in the Member States who request them. Unfortunately, most Member States have not requested visits. There is still room for improvement.

More targeted use of funding

The report also highlights the potential of more targeted funding. Combating AMR is a good investment because deaths can be avoided, and costs saved. Although a significant amount of money from the Structural Funds went into health projects, there was no strategic investment priority for the current programme period. Of the 7,404 health projects between 2014 and 2018, only two were specifically linked to antimicrobial resistance. The inclusion of the EU Health Programme in the European Structural Funds under ESF+ is viewed as an opportunity to overcome these shortcomings and achieve more synergies between funding instruments and investments.