Political measures to reduce antimicrobial resistance in Europe and the UK are in danger of becoming kneejerk reactions that are not based on sound science, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has warned ahead of European Antibiotic Awareness Day (18 November).
The BVA has told vets that they must use antimicrobials responsibly and be seen to use them responsibly or risk having restrictions imposed on their use by legislators using the precautionary principle.
To mark the Awareness Day BVA President Peter Jones delivered a webinar to over 300 veterinary surgeons titled "Resisting antimicrobials - are we acting responsibly?" hosted by The Webinar Vet and available to view at www.thewebinarvet.com/bva-webinars.
The BVA has consistently been at the forefront of promoting responsible use of these medicines, which are vital for both animal and human healthcare, through our responsible use poster, our membership of the RUMA (Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture) Alliance, contributing significantly to Europe-wide guidance on antimicrobial use and now the webinar resource.
The BVA also successfully lobbied for the responsible use of medicines to be enshrined in the new Code of Professional Conduct to which all veterinary surgeons in the UK must adhere.
BVA President Peter Jones said: "Any measures to tackle antimicrobial resistance must be based on sound science. At the moment we are resisting calls from parliamentarians and pressure groups in Europe and the UK to significantly restrict a veterinary surgeon's right to prescribe and dispense medicines according to clinical and professional judgement.
"These calls do not reflect the available science. We know from the USA and Denmark that banning or restricting the use of certain antimicrobials in certain species has not reduced the incidence of resistance to certain organisms in humans. Banning the veterinary use of antimicrobials could have a severe impact on animal health and welfare without achieving the desired impact in humans.
"Scientists also agree that human prescribing is more likely to have an impact on human medicine than veterinary use; but that responsible prescribing is essential in both sectors.
"We fully support measures to encourage responsible veterinary use, particularly of those classes of antimicrobial that are critical for human use such as fluoroquinolones and 3rd and 4th generation cephalosporins. The BVA responsible use poster states that these medicines should be reserved for clinical conditions that respond poorly to other classes of antimicrobials and where antibiotic sensitivity has been carried out, and that they should not be administered systematically to groups or flocks of animals except in very specific situations.
"Vets in the UK should be aware that the new Code of Professional Conduct states that they must be accountable for choices made on antimicrobial use. This is a very positive step forward in promoting the importance of responsible use."
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