The European Union seems to be making substantial strides in something the US thus far has been unable to do: reducing the use of antibiotics in food-producing animals.
In a new report issued on 15 October 2014, the European Medicines Agency (EMA)—the EU's version of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)—announced that between 2010 and 2012, the sales of antibiotics for use in animals fell 15% on average across 20 European countries.
While some of those countries did better than others—some decreases were as small as 0.4%, others as large as 49%--all but two of the countries saw an overall decrease in the number prescribed.
EMA officials called the figures a "positive trend" and "highly welcome" while at the same time cautioning that the report showed plenty of room for "further decrease."
What caused the decline? EMA officials weren't sure, but member states speculated that national programs to increase responsible prescribing, restrictions on the use of medically important antimicrobials, increased awareness of antimicrobial resistance, reduction targets, and "fluctuations in the size and types of animal populations" had all had an effect on the decline.
But while the EU had positive data to report, it contrasts heavily with a similar report showing a similar effect in the US—in the opposite direction.
In a report released by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in late September 2014, the regulator said that the quantity of antimicrobial active ingredients either sold or distributed in food-producing animals had increased by 16% between 2009 and 2012 in the US.
The report also notes there was a 16% increase in the use of medically important antimicrobials. The good news, FDA said, was that there was a slight increase (28% to 32%) in the percentage of medically important drugs being labeled solely for therapeutic indications—a change that makes it harder for the drugs to be used for growth-promoting purposes in the future.
The report is likely to put pressure on FDA to strengthen its current response to the antibiotic overprescribing crisis, which is now based on a voluntary framework.
EMA Report on Antimicrobial Use in the EU
FDA Report on Antimicrobial use in the US