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RUMA has it - alliance confirms leadership role in setting 'meaningful' AMR targets

26th Aug 2016 / By Alistair Driver

The Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture (RUMA) alliance is taking on a leadership role in the drive to bring to about improvements in the way antibiotics are used in farming.

And the early signs are good.

RUMA - now comprising 25 organisations spanning the farming, veterinary, animal medicine and supply chain sectors - is setting up a task force that will use industry expertise to deliver the change.

This, of course, a response to the Government-commissioned O'Neill Review's calls for action to address Antimicrobial Resistance in its final report in May.

Based on the report's recommendations, Defra Chief Veterinary Officer Nigel Gibbens has indicated he wants the UK livestock sector as a whole to cut antibiotic usage to 50mg/kg of livestock by 2018.

Current sales of antibiotics equate to 62mg/kg, although this is not necessarily the same as usage.

At a meeting on Tuesday, RUMA's lead role in the 'significant task' of setting sector-specific targets for reducing antibiotic use was confirmed.

This will be done through newly established working groups within RUMA, the Scientific Group and Targets Task Force. RUMA will be reporting to the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) along the way.

It is hoped that the process of defining goals for each sector will take around six months.

But RUMA secretary general John FitzGerald said the priority was to ensure the setting of goals was done rigorously and that the outcomes were meaningful.

In other words, he does not want to be limited to blunt volume-driven targets.

He said: "It's safe to say the industry recognises resistance is a global issue affecting us all, and it needs to play its part in preserving the efficacy of antimicrobials."

Mr FitzGerald acknowledged Defra's 50mg/kg target but added: "At a sector level, we want to move away from hard mg/kg or mg/PCU targets as we believe these have the potential to encourage the wrong behaviours. 

"For example, we need to reduce use of third and fourth generation antibiotics which are critically important for human medicine. However, these are used in tiny quantities compared with 'old' chemistry, so target weights just encourage use of the very products we need to reduce.

"So instead the task force will help each sector develop some really smart objectives that will reduce disease burden, improve immunity and use products more effectively – all while maintaining the best standards of animal welfare.

"To us, the 50mg/kg target and other such finite figures should be indicators of success, not the end destination."

A preliminary workshop is due in September with the task-force proper to be announced shortly and convening over October and November.

Mr FitzGerald said was also important to focus on what would work in the UK. The 50mg/kg target is based on what Denmark has achieved,

He said: "It should be remembered that the Danish government invested heavily to allow its pig farmers to build new high-health premises; and in reducing its antibiotic usage by nearly 60%, the Netherlands is now at approximately the same level of use as the UK."

National Pig Association senior adviser Georgina Crayford said the association was pleased RUMA was taking a more proactive approach and that the approach would continue to be rooted in science.

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