Honourable Members, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is a great pleasure to join you today to mark the official launch of the MEP Interest Group on Antimicrobial Resistance.
Your special interest in this issue, is the strongest testament for its importance at European level.
Antimicrobial resistance, according to the World Health Organization, is one of the top ten global public health threats we currently face.
Every year, drug resistant infections claim the lives of over 33 000 European citizens; it costs the EU an estimated €1.5 billion in extra healthcare expenditure and productivity losses.
The human and economic cost is already enormously high – but it stands to become potentially catastrophic if we don't introduce concrete changes to the way we treat and use antimicrobials in today's society.
I am delighted you have come together to raise the profile of this urgent challenge within the Parliament.
In my mission letter, President von der Leyen identified antimicrobial resistance as one of the Commission's priorities in the area of health, and the Parliament, YOU, will be an essential partner in this work.
Over the next few years, the President has asked me to focus on:
- the full implementation of the EU's 2017 "One Health" Action Plan – which contains over 70 concrete actions,
- and to work with our international partners to advocate a global agreement on use of, and access to antimicrobials.
This is a significant task and a great responsibility.
You can play a key role when it comes to promoting actions on antimicrobial resistance and I look forward to working closely with you and count on your continued support in the coming years.
Antimicrobial resistance – as we all know – requires comprehensive action: across the human, animal and environmental health sectors, across institutions and industries, and with a fully committed "health in all policies" approach. To frame our discussion today, I would like to quickly recap on some of the key steps we have taken at EU level in recent years.
The EU's "one health action plan" defined a broad agenda for our work on antimicrobial resistance and has already delivered important results.
The new rules on veterinary medicines and medicated feed, adopted in 2018, were a significant step forward to ensure antimicrobials are used correctly and responsibly in animals, and in certain cases, reserved for human use only.
The EU guidelines on prudent use of antimicrobials in human medicine have also helped to raise awareness. A grant for €2 million is now being finalised to help stakeholders implement them.
These actions will help preserve effective antimicrobials for the future. At the same time, we have continued to build a robust evidence base on antimicrobial resistance, working closely with the relevant EU agencies: the European Food Safety Authority, the European Medicines Agency and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.
This analysis and data provides essential input to help build national policies on antimicrobial resistance.
Funding for research has also been made available under the Horizon 2020 programme.
And on the environmental side, the EU's Strategic Approach to pharmaceuticals in the environment, adopted in March 2019, paved the way for important actions in this area too.
On the human health side, the EU's Joint Actions have strengthened cooperation on antimicrobial resistance across the EU and helped raise public awareness.
The Joint Action on Antimicrobial Resistance and Healthcare-Associated Infections includes 44 partners and over 30 stakeholders across the EU.
It received €4 million in support under the EU Health Programme.
A Joint Action on vaccination was also launched in 2018.
Amongst other priorities, it makes the important link between vaccination and reducing demand for antimicrobials.
The annual European Antibiotic Awareness Day and the Better Training for Safer Food programme – which takes place in Member States and the EU's partner countries – have also helped to raise a wider awareness of the threat of antimicrobial resistance and ways to address it.
More broadly, we have promoted cooperation in this field in the international arena, in the G7 and G20, and in our international trade agreements – and will continue to make this a high priority in the coming years.
All of these steps are very important. However, there is still a long way to go. Antimicrobial resistance will remain very high on our political agenda in years to come.
It also links with other important priorities which are now getting under way. Firstly, the Farm to Fork Strategy. Sustainable food systems, de facto, require sustainable and responsible use of antimicrobials in the food chain. Part of our strategy should therefore target a sizeable reduction in antimicrobial consumption in food-producing animals.
Secondly, Europe’s "Beating Cancer Plan". Cancer patients and other immunosuppressed citizens are more exposed to life-threatening infections, and more vulnerable when antimicrobials don't work.
Thirdly, our plans for a more holistic pharmaceutical policy will address some of the challenges in this area, including market failure, which limits the development of innovative treatments for citizens – and novel antimicrobials. An evaluation of the orphan and paediatric Regulation is underway and will be published in spring. It will help guide future actions in this area.
Honourable Members, Ladies and Gentlemen, dear friends,
The next few years are critical.
We face an uphill struggle if we don't stop antimicrobial resistance in its tracks and take effective action in this mandate.
We need to double our efforts – domestically and internationally -- to ensure future generations can benefit from effective antimicrobial treatments.
I call on all of you to push the message – in your committees and in your constituencies – that tackling antimicrobial resistance is in everyone's interests.
It is everyone's responsibility – and it should be everyone's priority.
Together we form a strong alliance in the fight against antimicrobial resistance, and together we can bring change.
Let us therefore join our forces over the next five years to bring lasting change against antimicrobial resistance.