The date of 18 November marks the 10th European Antibiotic Awareness Day (EAAD), a European health initiative which provides a platform and support for national campaigns on the prudent use of antibiotics.

On 15 November the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), in cooperation with the European Commission, hosted an EU-level event entitled ‘Keeping Antibiotics Working’ in Brussels.

ASOP EU attended the meeting where Mike Isles had the chance to meet the European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Dr Vytenis Andriukaitis, who gave the keynote address. He took the opportunity to inform the Commissioner that consumers, patients and caregivers buying antibiotics from illegally operating online pharmacy websites were potentially contributing to antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

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ASOP fighting Antimicrobial Resistance

Organisations were invited to say how they were contributing to the collaborative effort to combat AMR. ASOP explained what they were doing with the following intervention:

“The Alliance for Safe Online Pharmacy in the EU (ASOP EU) and its partner ASOP Global and tare making the public aware of illegally operating online pharmacy websites. A recent report issued in March 2017 by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (a non-profit organisation comprised of state pharmacy regulators  in the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and other countries) revealed that two-thirds of organic search engine results for antibiotics, yielded rogue websites that sell these medications without the need for a prescription, operating in opposition to national and local laws and relevant pharmacy practice standards. Purchasing antibiotics from these websites means consumers are taking powerful medications without oversight from a licensed health care provider and potentially contributing to antibiotic resistance.

This is of major public health concern and highlights the need to educate patients and caregivers about how the overuse of antibiotics from illegal online pharmacies is leading to antibiotic resistance. ASOP has a number of initiatives to raise awareness namely:

  1.  A Google educational AdWord grant to raise public awareness in 5 major countries in the EU. With over 30,000 first page impressions per day and a higher than average click through rate there is growing evidence of the campaigns' effectiveness. A survey attached to the website has received over 1100 responses which reveal behaviours ARE being changed.

  2. Encouraging Member States and the Commission to share best practice on the implementation of the Common Logo and which obliges all Member States to allow “sales of medicines at a distance” - ergo over the Internet – and so a seller of a medicine must register with their local regulatory authority. The Directive also states that it is a legal obligation for both the Member States and the Commission to publicise the meaning of a Common Logo and a falsified medicine.

  3. ASOP Global also has several public awareness-raising initiatives as well as being highly active in policy discussions with United States Congressional staff and the White House on Canadian online pharmacies and importation. They conducted the largest consumer survey to date in May 2017 (with accompanying report) to understand consumer perception and behaviour around online pharmacies. ASOP Global also actively engages with US Government offices on issues relating to buying medicines via the Internet. In addition, ASOP Global has a full programme to support Internet medicines governance issues around the world, including the Asia-Pacific region providing a supply chain tool and various specific activities in India and China.

Combined resistance to multiple antibiotics: a growing problem in the EU 

It is an alarming fact that AMR presents a serious social and economic burden. It is estimated to be responsible for 25,000 deaths per year in Europe and 700,000 deaths per year globally. AMR also pushes up the cost of treatment and diminishes productivity due to illness. In the EU alone it is estimated that it cost EUR 1.5 billion annually. AMR also threatens the achievement of several of the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, particulary for the targets for good health and well being.

In the ECDC policy briefing note their headline is telling and of great concern “Last-line antibiotics are failing: options to address this urgent threat to patients and healthcare systems."

A summary of the latest data on antibiotic resistance in the European Union makes for interesting reading and reveals the various areas of Europe being effected by AMR. It highlights that prudent antimicrobial use and comprehensive infection prevention and control strategies targeting all healthcare sectors are the cornerstones of effective intervention to prevent the selection and transmission of bacteria resistant to antimicrobial agents. 

Read the press release here: Combined resistance to multiple antibiotics: a growing problem in the EU 

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