The objective of any antibiotic strategies should be to reduce resistance to antibiotics and not their use, the International Federation of Animal Health (IFAH), including IFAH-Europe, reiterated at the conference Farmers and veterinarians together to tackle antimicrobial resistance.

Conference attendees called for policies regarding antibiotics use to be based soundly on science and for the focus to be on responsible use, with care taken to ensure that any restrictions on antibiotics in veterinary medicines do not adversely impact animal health and welfare.

As and when needed

In September, following the publication the European Commission’s Guidelines for the prudent use of antimicrobials, IFAH-Europe, while welcoming the publication, noted that the goal of responsible antibiotic use is to come to a use of antimicrobials “as little as possible, as often as necessary,” and that this does not automatically equate to a reduction of use in all situations.

Some national targets have shown that simple reduction targets can lead to antimicrobials being used incorrectly, a risk highlighted by the guidelines, notes the association, pointing to prescribed courses not being completed and lower dosages than prescribed to keep records low.

Counter-productive strategies

This could be counter-productive to the real objective of reducing antimicrobial resistance development, which involves correct use and the elimination of unnecessary use.

Experience with introducing firm, or political, reduction targets shows that initially the use of antimicrobials decreases, but often rises again due to unacceptable animal health and welfare issues because of changes in disease conditions which necessitate proper use on medical and ethical grounds.