When the cure becomes the disease
Medicine as we know it is under threat.
Around the world, common infections and routine surgeries are becoming fatal, as common antibiotics fail to treat bacteria and microbes.
The cause? Over-use and abuse of antibiotics in humans and agriculture is causing antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Bacteria and microbes become resistant to treatment. The rise of these ‘superbugs’ could create diseases that are non-curable.
This is not a distant problem: it is happening now. 400,000 people die every year due to treatment-resistant infections. If we do not act, this will rise to an estimated 10 million by 2050.
In this series we are exploring the value of regulation in protecting people and planet. We have travelled across Europe to meet real people fighting to protect the things they cherish, using – or calling for – regulation to help their struggle.
In this episode we find out how regulation can tackle the overconsumption of antibiotics in both humans and agriculture. We journey to Romania, a country where severe rates of resistance are already contributing to premature deaths, and then to Belgium to explore one of the solutions to the problem: antibiotic-free farms.
This cross-border problem requires cross-border solutions at the EU and international level.
“That regulation helped me be alive today.”
– Silviu Ciocanelli, Colectiv fire survivor and musician
Unfortunately, the EU’s action plan to tackle AMR is weak and non-enforceable. What’s stopping more comprehensive action being taken?
Strong lobbying from the pharmaceutical and agribusiness industries has stopped progress in its tracks. In 2015 alone, the pharmaceutical industry spent nearly €40 million on lobbying EU institutions. In June 2018, leaked documents showed how the EU had scrapped plans for a clampdown on pharmaceutical pollution, which contributes to the spread of superbugs. Clearly people’s health is not prioritised.
Nowhere in Europe is this problem clearer than in Romania. In 2015, a fire in the Colectiv club in Bucharest killed 64 people. Many of these deaths came as a result of antibiotic infections acquired in the hospitals victims were treated in.
- Current deaths of AMR
- Predicted deaths of AMR
- EU One Health Policy
- Antibiotics in farming (p. 26)
- What is AMR?
What can I do?
- Reduce your consumption of meat
- Don’t take antibiotics at random
- Ensure that antibiotics are taken only after being given a prescription from a medical professional
- Demand your government and the EU take action to tackle the problem
Special thanks to:
Vlad Mixich, Romanian Health Observatory
Andra, Asosciata Colectiv
Jean-Pierre Cuvry and Hoeve Cuvry