AMR Committee: Thoughts and road ahead following the first EHP plenary session

The AMR Committee of the third edition of the European Health Parliament (EHP) has been tasked with addressing antimicrobial resistance (AMR), a phenomenon accelerated by the overuse and misuse of antimicrobials, notably antibiotics. This has led to certain bacteria becoming resistant to even the last line of antimicrobials. The emergence of so-called “superbugs”, i.e. bacteria which are difficult or impossible to treat with existing medicines, is currently a major public health threat.

We believe that this issue should be a top priority for policy-makers. AMR is already responsible for an estimated 25,000 deaths per year in the EU, and EUR 1.5 billion in healthcare costs and productivity losses. If we do not properly tackle AMR now, it is estimated that by 2050, it will have the potential to become a more common cause of death than cancer, with 10 million deaths per year1.

Our committee brings together two College of Europe students and nine young professionals, all working on, and/or having a keen interest in, the healthcare sector: from physicians and researchers to policy officers and public affairs professionals in pharmaceutical and medical devices companies. Such a diverse pool of experiences will be a key added value for us to maintain a “One Health” approach for AMR, and to identify those challenges for which tailored recommendations are most urgent and valuable.

Developing policy recommendations: what do we want to focus on?
During the first plenary session, we shared our thoughts on the most important issues to be addressed to combat AMR. AMR is a challenging and multifaceted issue that can be tackled from several angles including policy, research, patients’ behaviour, and raising awareness about the use of antimicrobials. Further to this discussion, we realised that it would be useful to start from reviewing the current academic and policy-related literature, in order to fill knowledge gaps and get a clear, up-to-date overview of the current state of the debate.
We also identified some key areas to focus on going forward (though these topics might still evolve): the One Health approach, prevention, education and awareness raising, incentives for R&D, as well as sharing of best practices across the whole healthcare sector. The red thread of our recommendations will be the added value of the EU and how the EU can help with the implementation of relevant policies and initiatives at Member State level.

Engaging with policy makers: how and who?
We are convinced that the key to addressing the issue of AMR is to listen to a variety of stakeholders: these include the healthcare/pharma sector, the animal health industry, the food industry, consumer groups, NGOs, national and EU-level decision-makers, academics and researchers. As such, the more people we talk to, the more conferences we attend on the topic, the better. Given the geographical spread of AMR committee members across Europe – we are based in Brussels, London, Berlin, Paris, Rotterdam and Bruges – we are able to be present and approach relevant players in several locations in Europe.

We also plan to learn as much as possible from the partners of the EHP: Google, Politico, EU40, the College of Europe, and the European Patients Forum. For instance, with the help of training sessions provided by POLITICO, we will learn how to better 1) communicate on social media and 2) effectively approach policy makers. This training will help us learn about how AMR is perceived by the general public, interested stakeholders, and policy makers, as well as to communicate our vision and recommendations effectively. It will also give us invaluable insights into understanding policy makers’ needs and communicating with them in an impactful way, a key aspect when drafting our recommendations.

We also intend to approach policy makers from both the European Commission and European Parliament. During the first plenary session we had the honour of hearing perspectives on AMR from Karin Kadenbach MEP, who is a member of the European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health, and Food Safety (ENVI). We took the opportunity to introduce our Committee and will meet with her in the coming weeks, which is particularly timely given her role as lead MEP on a new Parliament report on AMR.

Opportunities of being a Committee Member of the European Health Parliament
We are particularly excited to be part of the European Health Parliament, as we believe that the EU can and should be a leading player in the fight against AMR. Indeed, the EU has been active on AMR for more than 15 years and strives to deal with this issue by promoting a “One Health” approach including human, animal health as well as the role of the environment. The EU’s 2nd Action Plan2, published in June 2017, aims to make Europe a best-practice region in AMR, and data shows that in certain Member States antibiotic use is decreasing, which is quite promising. However, this is not the case uniformly across the EU, and we hope that our recommendations will contribute to the sharing of best practices among Member States and across all relevant stakeholders.

We look forward to continuing our work over the next months, and making health great again by fighting together against antimicrobial resistance!
1 The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance, ‘Tackling drug-resistant infections globally’, May 2016, p. 4. Available at https://amr-review.org/sites/default/files/160525_Final%20paper_with%20cover.pdf

2 European Commission, ‘A European One Health Action Plan against Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR)’ , June 2017, Available at https://ec.europa.eu/health/amr/sites/amr/files/amr_action_plan_2017_en.pdf