April 18. 2024. 9:35

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Health brief: Keeping antimicrobial resistance high on the agenda

Editorial word: Keeping antimicrobial resistance high on the agenda

“Increased efforts to reduce unnecessary antibiotic consumption are imperative to tackle the public health threat of AMR [antimicrobial resistance],” Andrea Ammon, director of the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), said last week.

News about AMR, which leads to more than 35,000 deaths in the EU/EEA every year, is rarely uplifting.

However, a report published last week by the ECDC, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and the European Medicines Agency (EMA), highlighted a more positive development as it concluded that countries that have “decreased their consumption of antibiotics in both animals and humans have seen a reduction in antibiotic-resistant bacteria”.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), mis- and overuse of antimicrobials in humans, animals and plants is the main driver of AMR.

EU-level AMR action beyond the elections

Over the past few years, a number of steps have been taken at the EU level, including declaring AMR one of the three top health threats.

Nevertheless, in November 2023, ECDC numbers showed that antibiotic consumption in humans in the EU/EEA rose again in 2022 after a fall between 2019 and 2022. This was described as “concerning, showing that urgent and ambitious action is needed” by EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides.

The Belgian presidency has announced it will address the issue of AMR and has planned a conference on the topic from 6-8 May.

According to Belgian Health Minister Frank Vandenbroucke, another important element is the EU’s Health Emergency and Response Authority’s (HERA) 2024 plans to further support medical countermeasures for AMR.

Their actions count a range of elements, including ones to incentivise research and development in new antibiotics.

This is a particularly thorny element of the revision of the EU pharmaceutical legislation, which is currently undergoing negotiations in the Council and the European Parliament.

In the Parliament, political parties remain deeply divided on how to best create new incentives for pharma companies to develop desperately needed antibiotics. The next steps will be the health committee’s planned vote on the file 11 March and the plenary vote currently scheduled for 10 April.

Work on the pharma revision is set to continue after the EU elections in June, as are other elements to tackle AMR to reach the EU target of cutting consumption of antimicrobials in humans by 20% in 2030.

In the meantime, despite AMR being a slow pandemic, it is crucial to keep the topic high on the agenda going forward.

EU news

    • Ukrainian refugee situation must stay ‘high’ on political agenda, WHO warns
    • Germany adopts controversial law to legalise cannabis
    • EU deal on improved air quality fails to align with WHO standards
    • Gabriella Fesus new DG SANTE director
  • Ukrainian refugee situation must stay ‘high’ on political agenda, WHO warns. As Ukraine enters its third year of war, the World Health Organisation (WHO) highlighted the importance of continuing to provide medical and social support to refugees and called for a strong political commitment from the EU. “It is very important to keep the refugee discussion high on the political agenda, considering the waning support and the reduction in volunteerism,” Dr Nino Berdzuli, WHO’s representative in Poland and special envoy to refugee-receiving countries, warned in an interview with Euractiv’s Clara Bauer-Babef.
  • Germany adopts controversial law to legalise cannabis. After months of delays, the controversial law to partially legalise cannabis in Germany finally passed in the Bundestag on Friday (23 February), paving the way for making the possession and cultivation of the drug legal by April. “Today we are passing a very important law with which we are fundamentally changing our cannabis control policy,” German health minister Karl Lauterbach said in the Bundestag. Oliver Noyan has more.
  • EU deal on improved air quality fails to align with WHO standards. The provisional agreement on new rules for air quality across the EU is hailed as a step forward despite not aligning with World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations. EU institutions came to an agreement on the evening of Tuesday (20 February) on the revised rules for ambient air quality as part of the Zero Pollution Action Plan, aiming for zero pollution in air, water and soil by 2050. The deal was praised by the EU Parliament’s key negotiator Javí Lopez, who called it “a major step in our ongoing efforts to ensure a cleaner and healthier future for all Europeans”. Amalie Holmgaard Mersh reported here.
  • Gabriella Fesus is the new DG SANTE director. Without mentioning a date of effect, the European Commission announced on Tuesday (27 February) that they have appointed Gabriella Fesus as the new director for DG SANTE’s “Policy and Administrative Support.” Fesus is currently the head of unit for “Social Inclusion and Protection, Health and Demography” at the Directorate General for International Partnerships, however she has held positions within the Commission since 2005. Read more here.

News from the Capitals

For the fifth consecutive year, Poland is swimming in the slow lane, ranking last in the latest edition of the Contraception Policy Atlas Europe 2024. Read more.


Poland to promote new health education programme in schools. Polish schools expect to introduce a long-awaited health education programme, aimed at addressing public health concerns and promoting healthy lifestyles among children. Read more.


Belgium’s biotech sector confronts access challenges beyond rare diseases.
Despite Belgium’s prominent position as Europe’s second-largest biotech industry and its significant achievements in medical innovation, the pursuit of fast and sustainable access to life-saving therapies remains problematic, for Belgium and Europe. Read more.


Greece finally gets a National Cancer Registry, enhancing disease pathway monitoring.
After years of delays, the Greek health ministry has enacted a National Registry for Patients with Neoplastic Diseases. The country was one of the last in the EU to develop a Cancer Registry; patients and doctors have spoken about a historic moment for Greece. Read more.


New Swedish rare diseases strategy commissioned.
Sweden is preparing a national strategy to improve healthcare for people with a rare disease. The long-called-for plan will tackle major care inequalities amongst the estimated half a million people in Sweden living with a rare disease. Read more.


Czech shadow rapporteur weighs contentious new pharma package proposals.
The European Parliament (EP) is refining its position on two new proposals in the EU’s ongoing pharmaceutical package deliberations – a contested directive and a regulation. Czech MEP, Kateřina Konečná, shadow rapporteur of the new pharma package, favours the European Commission’s proposal for a regulatory data protection period while criticizing a shift from paper to digital medicine leaflets. Read more.

Read more with Euractiv

Bulgaria halts €50 billion healthcare investment strategy until 2030

Bulgaria halts €50 billion healthcare investment strategy until 2030

The Bulgarian parliament has paused a €50 billion healthcare investment strategy until 2030, despite struggling with excessively high mortality and recording the largest negative population growth in the European Union.