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Animal health trade organisation hits back at O’Neill report

NOAH executives said low returns were hitting research and development into animal antibiotics, while cutting use of the drugs carried its own risks.

The National Office of Animal Health (NOAH) which represents the animal health industry in the UK, has said low returns for animal antibiotics are hitting the development of the drugs.

On the release of its latest report criticising the O’Neill Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, NOAH chief executive officer Dawn Howard told Agri Investor that companies already find it difficult to allocate money for the development of new antibiotics increasingly strained because returns for antibiotics are lower than for multiple-use resistance drugs like vaccines.

“We should use antibiotics as little as possible but as much as necessary,” she said.

“There is also a lack in the number of companies doing this research … Although there is a lot going on with NOAH companies at universities, no company can afford to develop a new active antimicrobial drug by themselves. Research in the animal pharmaceutical sector is 2.5 percent that of the human pharma sector.”

Howard said that returns on a new medical product for animals was about half that for drugs developed for humans.

At the same time, the trade organisation suggested that the O’Neill Report’s recommendation for a “global target to reduce antibiotic use in food production to an agreed level per kilogram of livestock and fish, along with restrictions on the use of antibiotics important for humans” came with its own risks.

They said in their latest report: “A global reduction target runs the risk of being commandeered by processors, retailers and others for commercial motives, resulting in a rat race to zero with significant downsides for animal health and welfare, and public health.”

Antibiotics used to treat and prevent disease in livestock are increasing the risk of drug-resistant strains being passed on to humans by animals, the report last year by former Goldman Sachs chief economist Jim O’Neill found.

NOAH says that EU regulation means that prophylactic use of antibiotics, of which the O’Neill report is particularly critical, is no longer widespread.

NOAH also states that having specific reduction targets could lead to animals not completing a course of antibiotics or using the correct prescription, increasing the likelihood of antibiotic-resistant strains of disease occurring among livestock.