Parliament votes for tougher regulation of antibiotics

MEPs voted for stricter regulation of antibiotics. [Rob Brewer/Flickr]

MEPs have adopted a resolution to tackle the increase of drug-resistant diseases, which kill 25,000 EU citizens each year. EURACTIV France reports

The European Parliament adopted an own-initiative report last week (19 May) to improve patient safety and fight against drug resistance in Europe.

Between 8 and 12% of patients admitted to EU hospitals suffer undesired side effects, including hospital-acquired infections.

These lead to 37,000 deaths a year, according to Piernicola Pedicini, an Italian MEP from the Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFDD) group in the European Parliament, who drafted the report.

Pedicini argued that budget cuts were jeopardising patients’ health and that health would always suffer under policies of austerity.

“Austerity measures cannot be imposed in such a way that they affect the safety of patients, staff or experts in hospitals,” she claimed.

The resolution was adopted with 637 votes for, 32 against and 10 abstentions. European lawmakers urged national governments to further develop “high-quality and high-efficiency healthcare systems” and to “ensure that there are a sufficient number of healthcare professionals trained or specialised in infection prevention and control, as well as hospital hygiene”.

Resistance to antibiotics

European citizens’ increasing resistance to antibiotics, which currently accounts for 25,000 deaths each year, is a growing cause for concern. For Piernicola Pedicini, “the involvement of the pharmaceuticals industry in effective research into new antibiotics and new ways to tackle drug resistance” are essential.

>> Read: Sweden uses the fewest antibiotics in food production

MEPs proposed the following measures to ensure antibiotics are used more responsibly and reduce their harmful side-effects:

  • Strictly prohibiting their use without prescription.
  • Requiring a microbiological diagnosis before prescribing antibiotics.
  • Implementing marketing practices designed to prevent conflicts of interest between producers and prescribers.
  • Improving information on the monitoring of antimicrobial consumption and antimicrobial resistance and infection control.

Françoise Grossetête, a French member of the EPP group, welcomed the Parliament’s decision. “We certainly need to regulate and restrain the consumption of antibiotics by end users, but we also need to encourage the development of new antibiotic treatments, which has been hampered by economic, political and scientific barriers.”

Quality of care

The authors of this resolution based their recommendations on a Special Eurobarometer survey, entitled Patient Safety and Quality of Care.

This report found that 71% of Europeans believed the quality of healthcare in their country was good, but the figures varied greatly from one member state to another.

In Belgium, 97% of those questioned said their country’s healthcare system was good. This opinion was shared by 96% of Austrians and 94% of Finnish and Maltese citizens. At the other end of the scale, only 25% of Romanians and 26% of Greeks believed their country offered a good healthcare system.

Despite the broadly positive perception of the EU’s healthcare systems, half of the survey’s respondents (53%) thought it likely that a patient could be harmed by hospital care in their country. The opinion of European citizens, particularly the Spanish, in this regard has greatly deteriorated since 2009.

Resistance to antimicrobial treatments is becoming a global health threat.

Bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics, viruses to antiviral drugs and parasites to anti-parasitics.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has linked 150,000 deaths to multi-resistant tuberculosis.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) attributes 25,000 deaths a year in the EU to antimicrobial resistance. It estimates the annual cost of healthcare and loss of productivity to the EU at more than €1.5 billion.

The situation is serious, because antimicrobial treatments have become a cornerstone of modern medicine. Many surgical operations would be impossible without them.

Subscribe to our newsletters