Sales of veterinary and horticultural antibiotics have decreased for the fifth year in a row, dropping by 23% last year.
The drop is a key finding in New Zealand Food Safety’s (NZFS) 2022 Antibiotic Agricultural Compound Sales Analysis report.
It summarises the trends in the annual sales of veterinary and horticultural antibiotics as part of a national action plan to reduce antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
“The World Health Organisation has identified AMR as one of the top 10 global health threats facing humanity, so seeing a 23% drop in the sale of antibiotics for plants and animals is good news,” NZFS deputy director-general Vincent Arbuckle said.
“Antibiotics are antimicrobial medicines essential to the health of humans, animals, and plants, but using them excessively can lead to the emergence of resistant bacteria that don’t respond to antibiotic treatment.
“With AMR increasing around the world, and few new antibiotics being developed, careful use of the antibiotics we have will help to keep them effective.”
Of the 16 classes of antibiotics NZFS monitors, five are critically important for human health, meaning they should be considered the last line of defence in animal infections.
Arbuckle said that the total sales of antibiotics critical for human health decreased by 8% in 2022 to 6285kg.
“This is the lowest they’ve been since 2017, when 8952kg of antibiotics critically important to human health were sold.
“Overall, the sale of antibiotics has dropped from 71,361kg in 2017 to 41,033kg in 2022. That’s a drop of 42%.”
He said the ongoing decrease in the use of antibiotics was the result of a concerted effort from industry and NZFS to ensure these important medicines are used appropriately.
“The continued vigilance of veterinarians, farmers and other industry stakeholders, as well as our ongoing monitoring and support, are an effective way to minimise the incidence of AMR.”
NZFS is also reviewing its regulatory oversight of antibiotics used in plants and animals, which could lead to a further reduction in antibiotic use as controls for some antibiotics might be tightened.
This work has a five-year time frame as it involves reviewing hundreds of antibiotic products, Arbuckle said.
In 2017, the New Zealand Antimicrobial Resistance Action Plan was jointly developed by the Ministry of Health, New Zealand Food Safety and representatives from across the human health, animal health and agriculture sectors.
Its vision is for NZ to manage antimicrobials as a valuable shared resource and to maintain their efficacy so they can be used to treat infections in humans, as well as to manage diseases in animals and plants. An update to the action plan is due to be released next year.