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Artikel von Otmar Kloiber, WMA Weltärztebund vom 01.09.21 auf LinkedIn:
Are European Doctors heartless when it comes to the health of animals? No! Just the opposite.

Veröffentlicht: 1. September 2021

Von Otmar Kloiber, Generalsekretär des Weltärztebundes (WMA World Medical Association)

Anti-microbial resistance is one of the major killers of our time. And we are running out of treatment options. Resistant microorganisms grow wherever and whenever anti-microbials are being put out in nature and that doesn’t only happen in medicine, it happens virtually everywhere. On a global scale, the non-medical use of anti-microbials probably outnumbers the medical use not by some percent but by a magnitude. Antimicrobials are used as so-called growth promoters (prohibited in Europe), as medicines in husbandry like in human health, in food production, and even to treat trees in farming. Again, wherever anti-microbials hit nature, resistant strains occur. (There are only a very few anti-microbial substances that do no produce resistance, but those substances are not suitable as medicines.)

It is also common knowledge that where mass-breading is practiced and animals are held in a very small space or weened very early, they get sick at a high rate and need high amounts of antimicrobials. 

A current proposal for a European delegated regulation setting out criteria for identifying antimicrobials reserved for humans[i]was heavily opposed by the Standing Committee of European Doctors. In a letter to the Members of the European Parliament[ii], the President of the CPME asks to reject the regulation because it would allow using of antibiotics, we direly need to treat serious infections to be used for husbandry. 

In the Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety a motion by MEP Martin Häusling was successful in rejecting the Commission Proposal. But that doesn’t mean the plenary will follow. Häusling’s rationale for the rejection is excellent and shows the problem with the Commission proposal, which he deems “insufficiently protecting human health”. The mayor arguments brought forward in the motion are “that the Commission delegated regulation:

(a) sets the bar for the designation of HRAM ((antimicrobials reserved for humans)) unduly high; 

(b) leaves important issues undefined; 

(c) gives undue consideration to animal health concerns in its criteria; and 

(d) therefore significantly deviates from the WHO criteria for the designation of (highest priority) critically important antimicrobials for human use and the WHO guidelines on use of medically important antimicrobials in food producing animals”.

In discussions over the past weeks, you could hear dramatic arguments on both sides: Some were summarizing the Commission proposal as “putting animal health over human health”[iii]. Supporters of the Commission draft delegated regulation said it would be heartless to reject the Commission proposal. Without the allowances proposed by the Commission no treatment options for many very sick animals would remain.

Most likely the reality is far worse: It would be naïve to think that the Commission had auntie Emma’s old cat or the sick cow on the meadow on its mind when drafting the wide allowance of critical antibiotics in husbandry. There is good reason to assume that there are economic arguments of the Agri- lobby to enable the mass breeding of animals for food production, which made the Commission come up with this dangerous proposal.

There is proof that clean farming – which means more species-appropriate husbandry – less torturous conditions for animals reduces the need for antibiotics significantly[iv]. The proposal of the European Commission does not value the life of animals higher than that of humans – it just facilitates unacceptable mass farming. And now we know, it is not only ethically questionable – it is also detrimental for health care.

Physicians must put the health of their patients first. That does not mean they don’t care for animals. However, as long as husbandry is often taking place in truly sickening conditions it is absolutely correct not to waste our antibiotic medicines for the profit of unethical farming. A true “One Health” approach would be to first get rid of the dirty farming – then doctors would have no problems sharing all their tools with their veterinarian colleagues. 

Unfortunately, the current parliamentary procedure does not allow the EU Parliament to propose amendments. The motion by MEP Häusler mentioned above provides ideas for better legislation. Currently, the Parliament can only accept or reject. Therefore, the Parliament should reject the proposal and send it back to the Commission. Human health deserves better legislation – and animal health as well.

[i] Draft delegated regulation - Ares(2021)2132280 and  Annex - Ares(2021)2132280  

https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/11570-Drug-resistance-criteria-for-identifying-antimicrobial-medicines-reserved-for-treating-humans_enhttps://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/

[ii] https://www.cpme.eu/index.php?downloadunprotected=/uploads/adopted/2021/6/093_FINAL.Letter.MEPs_.on_.Drug_.resistance.Commission.delegated.regulation.pdf

[iii] https://www.cpme.eu/envi-committee-objects-to-prioritising-animal-welfare-over-human-health/

[iv] https://ec.europa.eu/info/law/better-regulation/have-your-say/initiatives/11570-Drug-resistance-criteria-for- identifying-antimicrobial-medicines-reserved-for-treating-humans/F2239103_en 

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/european-doctors-heartless-when-comes-health-animals-just-kloiber/?trackingId=av5kuBDETMi8RNU3lhncsw%3D%3D

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Otmar Kloiber

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Anti-microbial resistance (AMR) is one of the major problems of our times. Our therapeutic options are at stake and lawmakers must do more and better not to waste them. Read my comment on a recent European Union proposal that might fail to protect humans and animals alike.

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