Action needed now to stem EU's 25,000 a year death toll caused by resistant bacteria infections
Every year, across the EU, 25,000 people die of infections caused by resistant bacteria and according to a recently published study, "drug resistant infections will kill an extra 10 million people a year worldwide - more than currently die from cancer - by 2050 unless action is taken". Among the causes of this phenomenon is the misuse of antimicrobials, including antibiotics - in particular their excessive use - as well as stagnation in the development of new antimicrobial drugs. In my own-initiative report, entitled 'Safer Healthcare in Europe: improving patient safety and fighting antimicrobial resistance', I addressed this important issue, together with the topic of increasing patient safety in Europe. When addressing these issues, we mustn't forget to adopt a patient-centred approach as well as a multidisciplinary strategy when doctors decide on best medical treatments.
I believe that prevention is paramount in reducing healthcare associated infections and antibiotic resistance.
On this regard, some of my proposed measures include the need to regulate the prescription of antibiotics for treatment or prevention to ensure the appropriate use of these medicines.
Antibiotics should only be used for the correct indications, at the correct dose and for the shortest duration possible as recommended by evidence-based guidelines.
Regulation on the sale of antibiotics is also needed so that patients can buy only the specific quantity of antibiotics as prescribed by their doctors.
In some countries, such as Italy, when patients buy antibiotics, they are given the whole pack and not the exact number of pills as prescribed by their doctor. This means that patients could take the remaining leftover antibiotics without being medically prescribed.
It is therefore strongly recommended to ensure patients' adherence and compliance to antibiotic treatments prescribed by medical professionals through awareness campaigns on the rational use of antibiotics and the risks entailed by increasing antibiotic resistance.
The campaigns should address the parents and carers of young children as well as elderly people and should always be followed by an assessment of their outcomes.
Also, from a cross border perspective, infection control should be intensified by properly screening patients transferred from a country/region/hospital known for its high prevalence of multidrug-resistant bacteria.
I also expressed my strong concern about the current budget cuts in the healthcare sanitary systems adopted by some member states following the economic crisis. We should instead invest in specialised sanitary personnel and their training.
Many healthcare associated infections, including those caused by multidrug resistant bacteria, are due to the bad management of healthcare facilities. Managers should be appointed on the basis of their merits and professional experience and not on the basis of their political affiliations.
Another important aspect to be monitored and controlled is the use of antibiotics in animals which affects antibiotic resistance in humans.
I look forward to presenting my report to the ENVI committee and to working together with my colleagues in sending a strong message from the parliament on a crucial issue for all EU citizens.