analysis

Antibiotic use in animals drops in UK

By Aidan Fortune

- Last updated on GMT

The total quantity of antibiotics dropped by 19% between 2013 and 2017 in the UK
The total quantity of antibiotics dropped by 19% between 2013 and 2017 in the UK
A new report into antibiotic use in the UK has revealed significant reductions over the past four years.

The UK One Health Report found that the total combined quantity of antibiotics used in human and veterinary medicine dropped by 19% between 2013 and 2017 in the UK.

In 2017, a total of 773 tonnes of antibiotic active ingredients was dispensed in the UK for use in people and animals. This represents an overall reduction of 19% between 2013 and 2017. Tonnage used dropped by 6% in people (521 to 491 tonnes; excluding private prescriptions) and by 35% in animals (436 to 282 tonnes) over this four-year period.

On the results, Professor Peter Borriello, CEO of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, said: “A key priority for the UK Government is to protect human and animal health by minimising the development and spread of antibiotic resistance. Our total combined use of antibiotics in humans and animals dropped by 19% between 2013 and 2017, and represented falls for both animal (35%) and human (6%) medicine. Overall, there was a reduction in resistance to critical antibiotics.

“I am pleased to see our progress presented in this second One Health report, which provides valuable information for us to use to progress further in tackling the threat of AMR together.”

UK antibiotics

The UK Government recently unveiled new targets for antibiotic reduction in food-producing animals. It aims to reduce UK antibiotic use in food-producing animals by 25% between 2016 and 2020 and define new objectives by 2021 for 2025.

The UK isn’t the only country to see progress in reducing antibiotics. In the US in December 2018, a Food and Drug Administration study revealed that domestic sales and distribution of medically important antimicrobials used in food-producing animals dropped 33% between 2016 and 2017. This has been attributed to new legislation on antibiotics in the US leading to many processors announcing plans to reduce them or phase them out completely where possible.

Elsewhere, in October 2018, the Danish Programme for the Surveillance of Antimicrobial Resistance and Consumption, reported that usage in Denmark’s livestock farming fell 3% year-on-year in 2017, marking a 28% reduction since 2009. The Yellow Card programme, in which penalties are given for those who exceed limits of usage, has been cited as one of the main reasons for the successful reduction.

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