Building on excellent foundations with improved understanding of antibiotic use

Posted on November 15, 2017 by Dawn Howard

As the association representing the UK animal medicines industry in the UK, NOAH has long been working to increase understanding of medicine use in both farm and companion animals, including the important issue of how the veterinary sector can work alongside its human medical colleagues to play its part in the global fight against antibiotic resistance. World Antibiotic Awareness Week (WAAW) is an excellent time to bring this into sharp focus, and to ensure everyone – professional and public alike, is aware of its relevance to and impact on them personally.

Animals play many significant roles in the lives of the British public – 44% of our households include a pet for example and at any one time there are around 140 million cows, pigs, sheep and chickens in the UK. We at NOAH celebrated our 30th anniversary last year as an association, and we have been working throughout these years to promote responsible use of all animal medicines to ensure all animals have access to first class care in an effective, practical and sustainable way.

With antibiotics taking centre stage this week, our sector is part of the drive to ensure the long-term effectiveness of these vital medicines, so important in preventing animal suffering. We all share responsibility in ensuring that antibiotics are used appropriately – as little as possible, but as much as necessary.

Prevention is better than cure

We must continue to ensure animal health and welfare are not compromised by working to promote measures to prevent disease, including encouraging uptake of vaccinations and other alternatives where they are available. It’s down to us all to ensure that every step is taken to ensure that animals are not exposed to disease and are protected if they are. To complement responsible use efforts our sector is committed to investing in the development of alternative products to prevent disease – this might be, for example, if a vaccine is not yet available.

Beat the bugs

New for WAAW is a survey for pet owners around the excellent #BeattheBugs video produced by the Bella Moss Foundation charity, which NOAH co-funded for launch during the awareness week last year. The video has been very well received, but we want to reach out to pet owners to see what they understand about how AMR impacts them personally, and see how the video helps explain what they need to do. The message is simple: follow the advice of your vet or doctor, and we encourage vets to share it with their clients. The information the finished survey will give us will help shape future communications – and it gives a link to everyone to sign up to become an Antibiotic Guardian at the end, reinforcing the excellent Public Health England campaign.

Responsible use – good progress and more to come

Veterinary surgeons need to continue to have access to a range of antibiotics, so they can prescribe the one most appropriate for any specific bacterial disease situation. The progress reported in the Veterinary Antimicrobial Resistance and Sales Surveillance (VARSS) report for 2016, which shows significant reductions in antimicrobial use, demonstrates that UK vets and farmers are making every effort to prescribe and use antibiotics responsibly.

It is really encouraging that the work of the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) – of which NOAH is a founder member - is having a meaningful impact, which will help veterinary antibiotics to remain effective and available for use in the future.

Building on the results of the VARSS Report, RUMA recently announced new species-specific farm antibiotic targets, as a result of the work of the RUMA Targets Task Force (TTF). These will further reduce, refine or replace antibiotic use across eight different livestock sectors. The work of the Targets Task Force will continue to promote and support responsible use in the coming years, whilst at the same time ensuring animal health and welfare is maintained.

A global issue

NOAH is also a signatory to the Health for Animals Global Animal Health Sector Commitment and Actions on Antibiotic Use, which shows how the whole animal medicines sector is working collectively on a global level, echoing and complementing these UK activities.

And there is more to come. NOAH is actively working alongside the profession on a project to be launched next year. Through the development of industry recognised learning outcomes and consistent training materials, which can be integrated into a variety of existing and newly developed delivery mechanisms, this project will seek to raise awareness, knowledge and understanding of AMR and antibiotic best practice in a consistent manner across UK farms.

More information

  • Our special blog series on antimicrobial resistance, AMR in Focus, invites experts from the fields of veterinary science, academia and government to share perspectives on key achievements, latest research and future action needed to tackle this serious issue. All opinions in the blogs reflect those of the writer.
  • For more discussions on antimicrobial resistance, join us at BVA Congress at the London Vet Show (16-17 November) for a Friday afternoon session on 'The psychology of antimicrobial resistance: what can social science tell us?', featuring David Brodbelt, Professor of Evidence-based Veterinary Medicine at Royal Veterinary College; Ian Donald, Emeritus Professor of Psychology and Director, Mulberry Research & Consulting Ltd, and Kristen Reyher, Senior Lecturer in Farm Animal Science at the University of Bristol. 
  • Dawn Howard

    Written by Dawn Howard

    Chief Executive of NOAH

    Dawn Howard joined NOAH as Chief Executive of NOAH in 2014. Prior to this she was based in Brussels and spent a number of years representing UK agriculture in the office of the UK National Farmers Union, the British Agriculture Bureau, where her responsibilities included animal health and welfare. She later headed up the European body for farm animal breeders, EFFAB where she was involved in a number of EU framework projects.

    Dawn previously worked in Defra’s Animal Health and Welfare policy unit in Westminster and prior to that both Plant Health and pesticides policy departments in York, originally joining as a field-based inspector. She has a degree in Botany from the University of Nottingham and has developed a passion for raising animal health and welfare standards.