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Containing resistances: Antibiotic monitoring in veterinary medicine

Dossiers - Antibiotic resistance

Containing resistances: Antibiotic monitoring in veterinary medicine


The Information System on Antibiotics in Veterinary Medicine (IS ABV) is part of the federal government's Strategy on Antibiotic Resistance (StAR). Veterinarians have been recording their antibiotic prescriptions in the system since 1 January 2019. The database makes it possible to track the use of antibiotics in pets and farm animals.

In two reports in 2022, the federal government showed how antibiotics are used in pets and farm animals. The basis for this is continuous monitoring: all veterinarians must now record their antibiotic prescriptions in the antibiotics in veterinary medicine information system, both for groups of animals, individual animals and if they are dispensed in advance. This is intended to ensure the long-term efficacy of antibiotics in humans and animals and contribute to the containment of resistance.

The data recorded in the IS ABV makes it possible to draw conclusions about the consumption of antibiotics in veterinary practices or in livestock farming. Furthermore, if there are indications of excessive or inappropriate use of antibiotics, targeted investigations into possible causes can be initiated and measures taken accordingly. Data collection can also be used to determine whether these are effective or whether additional measures are necessary.

Declining antibiotic production and dispensing

Since 2011, antibiotic sales figures for the treatment of animals have fallen every year, with an overall decrease of 51 per cent[1].  The figures are published every year in the "ARCH-Vet Report" compiled by the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO), which records antibiotic sales and resistance data in veterinary medicine. The quantity of critical antibiotics dispensed has also fallen sharply since 2016. Critical antibiotics include the active substances with the highest priority for human medicine, which should generally be used very restrictively. Since the revision of the Veterinary Medicinal Products Ordinance (TAMV, SR 812.212.27) on 1 April 2016, certain critical antibiotic classes may no longer be dispensed in stock. Consumption fell by 80%[2] in relation to the total quantity in 2013.

In January 2022, the first report (in German) on antibiotic prescriptions for livestock in Switzerland was published, based on data from 2020. This is the first year since the introduction of the IS ABV in which all data has been systematically recorded in full. The quantities of antibiotics, the number of prescriptions and the number of animal treatments were analysed in the individual category of livestock. However, the analysis was carried out in absolute figures and not yet in relation to the number of animals. The report therefore only contains initial indications of treatment intensity.

Number of animal treatments as an important key figure

The treatment intensity provides an overview of how many treatments with antibiotics have been carried out in a livestock category. However, this indicator must be viewed with caution: a large number of animal treatments can be relatively low in a population with many animals in a category; on the other hand, a small number of treated animals can be relatively high in smaller populations. The number of animal treatments will continue to be one of the important key figures in the future, especially if it is set in relation to the size of the population.

Conclusion: The data quality must be improved for the next report. At the same time, it provides an initial overview and notes that the quantity of antibiotics sold in veterinary medicine has been declining for years. However, it has also been shown that antibiotics with critical active substances are still often dispensed in stock, although this is only tolerated under clearly defined circumstances. Further clarifications will be made with the cantonal veterinary authorities in this regard.

Use in pets: "first-line antibiotics"

In March 2022, the first report (in German) on antibiotic prescriptions for pets was also published. This shows both the number of treatments and the quantities of active substances used for antibiotic treatments in dogs, cats and ungulates. According to the report, veterinarians primarily prescribed so-called "first-line antibiotics". This shows that the veterinary profession is implementing the recommendations of good prescribing practice.

Cats receive critical antibiotics more frequently than dogs and ungulates. Some of these are long-acting preparations that are only excreted slowly. The increased dispensing in cats is because it is not always easy to give them oral medication. This report also shows that the quality of the data still needs to be improved, but that the quantity of antibiotics prescribed for pets is generally declining.

Sales of antibiotics have been declining for years

The IS ABV Report 2021 (in German), which analyses the key figures for both livestock and pets, also shows that the quantity of antibiotics sold in veterinary medicine has been falling for years. Data quality is also constantly improving, but further efforts are still needed to improve data quality. While the 2020 report only presented absolute figures for the quantity of active substances, number of prescriptions and animal treatments, the 2021 report also calculated the number of animal treatments per 1,000 animals and treatment days per animal, considering the size of the various livestock categories. Trends cannot yet be derived with certainty from two years of data. Nevertheless, the population-related figures provide valuable indications as to which areas need to be looked at more closely.

Industry's desire for easier IS ABV access

scienceindustries and the veterinary pharmaceutical industry have always been cooperative regarding the IS ABV and welcome the developments in the measures to combat antibiotic resistance. Nevertheless, the industry would like to see access to the IS ABV simplified: the current allocation by BUR[3] number (establishment and company register number) is inadequate and complicates the application.

The industry would like to see the GLN number (Global Location Number[4]) continue to be used, as this is publicly accessible compared to the BUR number. The annual sending of the current BUR lists by the Federal Food and Veterinary Office (FSVO) and the corresponding comparison by the industry cause a great deal of effort, whereby the BUR numbers can sometimes not be found.



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