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Public Health

EU Action on Antimicrobial Resistance

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) – the ability of microorganisms to resist antimicrobial treatments, especially antibiotics – has a direct impact on human and animal health and carries a heavy economic burden due to higher costs of treatments and reduced productivity caused by sickness. AMR is responsible for an estimated 33,000 deaths per year in the EU. It is also estimated that AMR costs the EU €1.5 billion per year in healthcare costs and productivity losses.

The Mission Letter to Commissioner Stella Kyriakides defines the need to tackle the rise or return of highly infectious diseases, highlighting the need to focus on the full implementation of the European One Health Action Plan against Antimicrobial Resistance to work with international partners to advocate for a global agreement on the use of and access to antimicrobials.


EU One Health Action Plan against AMR

In June 2017, the European Commission adopted the EU One Health Action Plan against AMR, as requested by the EU countries in the Council conclusions of 17 June 2016. It builds on the 2011 action plan (see below), its evaluation, the feedback received on a European Commission Roadmap on AMR and an open public consultation.

The key objectives of this plan are built on 3 main pillars:

  1. Making the EU a best practice region
  2. Boosting research, development and innovation
  3. Shaping the global agenda

The Commission has also adopted the first deliverables of the plan, for example the EU Guidelines on the prudent use of antimicrobials in human health (all languages available). The guidelines aim to reduce inappropriate use and promote prudent use of antimicrobials in people. They target all actors who are responsible for or play a role in antimicrobial use. This complements the EU Guidelines on the prudent use of antimicrobials in animal health.

The European Commission issues twice a year a progress report as regards the 2017 “EU AMR Action Plan”.

Since the implementation of the 2017 AMR EU Action Plan, important updates have been made in order to further strengthen EU’s response to AMR, for example:

On 25 November 2020, the Commission adopted the Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe that will address several AMR challenges including the lack of investment in antimicrobials and inappropriate use of antibiotics. Moreover, the strategy will also cover actions on improving healthcare professionals’ and European citizens’ awareness on antimicrobial resistance.

In November 2020, the new Commission Implementing Decision (EU) 2020/1729 on the monitoring and reporting of antimicrobial resistance in zoonotic and commensal bacteria was published. This Decision is based on the latest scientific opinions and addresses known implementation issues while scientifically responding and ensuring continuity in assessing future trends in AMR.

The European Commission launched in September 2021 the European Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Authority (HERA) to prevent, detect, and rapidly respond to health emergencies. HERA anticipate threats and potential health crises, through intelligence gathering and building the necessary response capacities. When an emergency hits, HERA ensure the development, production and distribution of medicines, vaccines and other medical countermeasures – such as gloves and masks – that were often lacking during the first phase of the coronavirus response.

The EU4Health (2021-2027) programme was adopted, representing the EU’s response to COVID-19, which has had a major impact on medical and healthcare staff, patients and health systems in Europe. By investing €5.1billion, this programme is the largest health programme ever in monetary terms; EU4Health provides funding to EU countries, health organisations and NGOs including urgent health priorities that are reducing the number of antimicrobial-resistant infections and improving vaccination rates.

In May 2020, the European Commission adopted the Farm to Fork Strategy, a tool to help shape the EU’s path towards sustainable food systems. Its objective is the reduction by 50% of the overall EU sales of antimicrobials for farmed animals and in aquaculture by 2030. The achievement of this objective will be supported by the implementation of the new Regulation (EU) 2019/6 on Veterinary Medicinal Products (VMP Regulation) and Regulation (EU) 2019/4 on Medicated Feed (MF). These provide for a wide range of measures to fight AMR and promote a more prudent and responsible use of antimicrobials in animals.

Better animal welfare improves animal health, reduces the need for medication, and helps to preserve biodiversity. The Commission will revise the animal welfare legislation to align it with the latest scientific evidence, broaden its scope, make it easier to enforce and ultimately ensure a higher level of animal welfare.

In March 2019, the Commission adopted a Strategic Approach to Pharmaceuticals in the Environment (PiE). The purpose was to address the environmental implications of all phases of the lifecycle of (both human and veterinary) pharmaceuticals, from design and production through use to disposal. Several actions in the strategic approach are intended to contribute to the objectives of the EU One Health Action Plan against AMR.

The Commission also cooperates with international partners, such as the World Health Organisation, notably its Regional Office for Europe, to support Member States in the implementation of global guidance on antimicrobial resistance regarding antimicrobial stewardship, infection prevention and control and awareness-raising.

EU AMR One-Health Network

The EU AMR One-Health Network, chaired by the European Commission, includes government experts from the human health, animal health and environmental sector, the EU scientific agencies (ECDC, EMA, and EFSA) and Commission experts. The bi-annual EU AMR One-Health Network meetings provide members with a platform to present national action plans and strategies and keep each other up to date on their progress, to share best practices, and to discuss policy options and how to enhance cooperation and coordination.

A dedicated privacy statement providing information about the processing and the protection of personal data applies to the meetings of the AMR One Health Network.

See also