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Juncker's Commission accused of negligent response to biggest health threat of the 21st century

13 September 2016
by epha -- last modified 13 September 2016

England's Chief Medical Officer and WHO director demand quick EU action to stop the spread of drug-resistant ’superbugs’ and preserve the effectiveness of antibiotics.


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The European Commission has been called on by Professor Dame Sally Davies, Chief Medical Officer for England and Dr Marc Sprenger, the Director of WHO's Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) Secretariat to respond without delay to the threat of a post-antibiotic era.

Their calls were echoed by the public health community, consumer and environmental groups, representatives of the pharmaceutical industry and health professionals including infection control specialists, nurses and pharmacists, at a conference titled RESISTANCE!, Antibiotics, politics and public health hosted by the European Public Health Alliance (EPHA)..  Archie Turnbull, EPHA President, defined antimicrobial resistance as "the biggest health threat of the 21st century".

2016 is a crucial year in the fight against drug-resistance in bacteria, following the release of the AMR Review by Lord Jim O'Neill for the UK Prime Minister and European Council Conclusions under the Dutch Presidency and discussions at the recent G20 forum in China. AMR will be the topic of a Heads of State and Government meeting on 21st September convened by the UN Secretary-General in New York.

However the European Commission's own AMR action plan is due to expire in 2 months and was branded by Commission Director-General for Health Xavier Prats-Monné as "not commensurate with the scale of the problem" at the conference.

The Commission's political will does not match DG Sante's prioritisation of AMR, implied Xavier Prats-Monné. EU Health Commissioner Dr Vytenis Andriukaitis calls AMR a major priority. Prats-Monné explained that lack of commitment outside his DG is the main obstacle to an action plan on AMR for 2017, which "could be presented shortly.".

 "I cannot believe there would not be a new European action plan" declared Prof Dame Sally C. Davies, "Europe must continue to be the leading world region in the fight against AMR. We need a new European action plan, and I encourage all stakeholders to cooperate and push for it.".

"Europe must set concrete targets now" echoed Dr Marc Sprenger, Director, Antimicrobial Resistance Secretariat, WHO.

In her closing conclusions of the conference, EPHA Secretary-General Nina Renshaw summed up the participants' call for the Juncker Commission to convert the current momentum, awareness and consensus into commitments and action, including mandatory targets for the prudent use of antibiotics, an increase of European funding and a beefed up  mandate and resources for the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and called for Europe to go on a diplomatic offensive, undertaking AMR diplomacy towards G20, G7 and the UN.

The European Public Health Alliance (EPHA) is a change agent – Europe's leading NGO advocating for better health. We are a dynamic member-led organisation, made up of public health NGOs, patient groups, health professionals, and disease groups working together to improve health and strengthen the voice of public health in Europe. EPHA is a member of, among others, the Social Platform, the Health and Environment Alliance (HEAL), the EU Civil Society Contact Group and the Better Regulation Watchdog.

European Public Health Alliance (EPHA)