Opinion Former Article

NOAH: Promotion of antimicrobials to farmers

Antibiotics are essential for the health and welfare of the UK's livestock population. NOAH accepts that antimicrobial resistance is a serious and growing subject of discussion for the medical and veterinary professions. Clearly the collective industry i.e. animal medicine companies, the veterinary profession and farmers need to continue to take the matter seriously.
We appreciate the fact that the VMD recognises the role that responsible promotion plays in 'knowledge transfer' to farmers. NOAH does not believe that the banning of advertising of antimicrobials to farmers, proposed in the draft Veterinary Medicines regulations 2010, will reduce resistance profiles.

NOAH chief executive Phil Sketchley explained: "Whilst NOAH can understand the political pressures on the regulatory system that have brought about this proposed change, we must ensure this proposed ban does not impinge on providing farmers with essential information relating to the health and welfare of their animals. NOAH believes that good policy is based on a foundation of science and are anxious that this and future debates about antimicrobial resistance should be based on science and not politics.

We need a holistic approach to all medicine use and by that we mean responsible promotion, responsible prescribing and responsible use of all medicines including antimicrobials. NOAH believes that prescribers and users of veterinary medicines should operate to the principle of 'as little as possible but as much as necessary'," he said.

Using promotion to encourage responsible use, NOAH launched its 'Use Medicines Responsibly' campaign last year. A recommendation was made that members include a strap line on promotional material advising users to 'use medicines responsibly' and including a web link to a page on the NOAH website promoting responsible use.

"This is being rolled out by our members now," explained Mr Sketchley.
In line with this holistic approach, NOAH also supports initiatives such as the British Veterinary Association's recent communications to its members focussing on prescribing of antimicrobials for all animals. Responsible prescribing is also supported by Positive Farm Health Planning, where farmers and vets work together on the prevention, treatment and control of infectious disease, nutritional problems and production diseases.

Phil Sketchley said: "Twelve years ago, NOAH was a founder member of the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) and we continue to be a strong contributor to and supporter of RUMA's communications to famers including the antimicrobial guidelines. These guidelines are not intended to influence the veterinary surgeon's decision to prescribe but help support ways that the veterinary surgeon and farmer can work together to reduce the need to prescribe antimicrobials whilst ensuring they are used responsibly once prescribed. This has been mirrored throughout Europe through the establishment of the European Platform for the Responsible Use of Animal Medicines (EPRUMA).

"Farmers do need to be kept well briefed on the medicines they use. Promotion by our members plays a key role in this but importantly we must always remember that antimicrobial medicines for all animals are POM-V, meaning they have to be prescribed by a veterinary surgeon, and therefore it should be the vet who makes the decision on whether an antibiotic is needed," he said.

If such therapy is indicated, the most appropriate antibiotic for an animal or group of animals is selected based on the clinical signs shown, the current disease situation on the farm and in the area and where appropriate and feasible, is based on bacterial culture and sensitivity testing.

He said: "NOAH will lobby strongly for the continuation of education campaigns by our members about infectious disease prevention, treatment and control. Within defined boundaries, educational activities about bacterial disease and antimicrobials should be allowed to continue through RUMA and through vet/farmer meetings.

NOAH members follow rigid rules on advertising and promotion through its longstanding Code of Practice which goes beyond the Veterinary Medicines Regulations 2009. We therefore feel that NOAH members promote medicines responsibly."

The government is looking for a joined up approach to education of farmers about endemic disease treatment and control and as a result, industry plays an important role in this. At an animal level, good disease treatment and control improves welfare. A failure to treat a sick animal appropriately and without delay is a breach of the Welfare in Farmed Animal Regulations. Farmers need to be educated about disease in order to be able to do treat and control it in the most optimal way.

At a society level, DEFRA has recently stated that there is a need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture by reducing losses from endemic disease. Farmer education campaigns on steps that can be taken to treat and control mastitis, lameness, parasite infestations and respiratory disease will have a role to play in educating farmers on how to reduce losses caused by such diseases. Our industry is one of the few that runs free Continuing Professional Development events for farmers and needs to be able to continue to do this within the law. As professional keepers of animals and producers of the nation's food, farmers need to continue to be empowered to improve their businesses through increased knowledge.

Phil Sketchley added: "Responsible use of antimicrobials does not mean they should not be used. It means making sure that they are used as little as possible, but as much as necessary."

-ends-

Notes to Editors
The National Office of Animal Health represents the UK animal medicines industry: its aim is to promote the benefits of safe, effective, quality medicines for the health and welfare of all animals.
For further information contact Phil Sketchley or Alison Glennon at NOAH on 020 8367 3131, or by email noah@noah.co.uk or look at the NOAH website www.noah.co.uk
1. The VMD's consultation on the Veterinary Medicines Regulations is found at http://www.vmd.gov.uk/publications/consultations/vmr10.htm
2. NOAH's 'Use Medicines Responsibly' webpage is found at http://www.noah.co.uk/responsible/index.htm
3. The BVA's poster on the Responsible Use of Antimicrobials in Veterinary Practice is at http://www.bva.co.uk/public/documents/BVA_Antimicrobials_Poster.PDF
4. Further information on Farm Health Planning is at http://www.defra.gov.uk/foodfarm/farmanimal/fhp/index.htm
5. A unique initiative involving organisations representing every stage of the "farm to fork" process, RUMA aims to promote a co-ordinated and integrated approach to best practice in the use of medicines. More information is at http://www.ruma.org.uk/index.html
6. EPRUMA is a multi-stakeholder platform linking best practice with animal health.
It aims to promote the responsible use of medicines in animals in the EU. More information is at http://www.epruma.eu/
7. More information on NOAH's Code of Practice for the Promotion of Animal Medicines is at http://www.noah.co.uk/issues/code.htm

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