By Martin Seychell, EC Deputy Director General for Consumers and Health, responsible for Directorates B, C and D
Antibiotic-resistant infections continue to increase at an alarming pace, and this poses a serious threat to human health. One of the cornerstones of the Commission action plan on Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) is to improve the prudent use of antibiotics – and this in Europe and also world-wide.
We therefore support EU Member States in their efforts to inform the general public about the importance using antimicrobial agents prudently. On European Antibiotic Awareness Day, marked on the 18 of November each year, the Commission, the WHO and numerous stakeholders are partnering with the European Centre for Disease Control in preparing communications materials and planning activities to raise awareness. The focus of this year's ECDC stakeholder event will be "self-medication", and a global twitter chat will be organised on the 18th.
Furthermore, we seek to better understand the causes of the misuse of antibiotics, in order to be better able to change behaviour – the behaviour of the individual patient, doctors and pharmacists. Very often, antibiotics are prescribed and used unnecessarily as a "cautionary" or "pre-emptive measure", which risks making them ineffective long-term. Here we need to have better diagnostic tools as a basis for prescription practices. To help doctors decide when not to prescribe antibiotics in case of viral infection and to facilitate patients' acceptance for not taking antibiotics, rapid tests are needed. To this effect, the Commission will launch an innovation prize ("inducement prize"), the "Reducing the Misuse of Antibiotics Prize" early 2015, under Horizon 2020.
But let's remember - the best prescription for colds and flu is to take care, not antibiotics!