This fact-finding mission on the prudent use of antimicrobials in animals took place in the Netherlands from 13 to 20 September 2016 and is part of DG Health and Food Safety’s planned series of such missions to Member States.
The objectives of this mission were to gather further information on the practical implementation of measures aimed at tackling the issues concerning antimicrobial resistance relating to the use of veterinary medicines and identify examples of good practice which could be helpful to other Member States in addressing this issue.
Overall, there has been a very significant reduction in the use of antibiotics in animals in the Netherlands in recent years (a 58.4% decrease in sales from 2009 to 2015). Since prudent use policies have been enacted there has been a clear and associated decrease seen in levels of antimicrobial resistance in broilers, veal calves and pigs in the Netherlands. The policies were set up as a public-private partnership. Stakeholders in the major livestock production sectors - pigs, broilers, veal and cattle – together with the Royal Netherlands Veterinary Association took responsibility for effective measures, facilitated and supervised by the national government. This public–private cooperation resulted in the establishment of an independent body (the Netherlands Veterinary Medicines Authority) to analyse data on the use of antimicrobials at farm level and to set benchmarks.
Good practices applied in the Netherlands include transparency as regards recording and benchmarking of antibiotic use on farms, benchmarking of the prescribing patterns of veterinarians, strengthening the role of veterinarians, taking measures to improve animal health and promoting prudent use in line with official reduction targets. Promotion of the prudent use of antibiotics in animals has also been achieved by implementing policies based on expert scientific advice, monitoring antimicrobial resistance and promoting research and specific initiatives by producer organisations, with the support of government. These initiatives have been backed up with official supervision and controls in an overall One Health context.
The findings highlight the progress that can be achieved in a relatively short time period to reduce the use of antibiotics in animals, and associated antimicrobial resistance, while safeguarding animal health and welfare, the economic viability of producers and avoiding an excessively legislative approach. In the near future, sectorspecific reduction strategies will be developed and executed.
Future strategies will focus more specifically on farms and veterinarians with persistent high use and high prescribing patterns of antibiotics respectively. A number of aspects of the measures put in place in the Netherlands aimed at encouraging the prudent use of antimicrobials in animals could serve as an illustration of potential good practices to other Member States.
February 2017/ DG Health and Food Safety/ European Union.