Total sales of antibiotics for use in food-producing animals in Ireland increased by 15.2% in one year, according to the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

In its annual European Surveillance of Veterinary Antimicrobial Consumption (ESVAC), published today, it showed that this jump happened between 2019 and 2020.

Across Europe, there was a 6% increase in sales of such products in the same timeframe.

Brexit impact

According to the report, one major factor that could have influenced the increase in sales in Ireland in 2020 is the effect of Brexit.

It stated:

“Due to the uncertainty around Brexit and the potential implications for availability of products in 2021, over-purchasing of some antimicrobial products during 2020 was reported.”

However, the impact of over-purchasing on overall antimicrobial sales during 2020 is unknown, according to the report. And it added that it is likely that several more years of data will need to be reviewed before it can be determined if the sales data for 2019 and 2020 are anomalies.

Over a 10-year period from 2011 to 2020, there was a 43% drop in antibiotics sales for use in food-producing animals across Europe.

According to the report, total sales of veterinary antimicrobial agents for food-producing animals (mg/PCU) in Ireland have fluctuated marginally from year to year.

Sales trends of antibiotics for food-producing animals in Ireland. Image source: European Surveillance of Veterinary Antimicrobial Consumption report

They peaked in 2013 at 55.68 mg/PCU and troughed in 2019 at 40.79 mg/PCU.

From 2019 to 2020, total sales increased by 15.2% to 47.01 mg/PCU, as outlined above.

Tetracyclines, penicillins and sulfonamides – the antimicrobial classes with the highest sales over the years (in mg/PCU) – accounted for 41.6%, 26.4% and 9.9%, respectively, of all sales in 2020.

Since 2011, sales of third- and fourth-generation cephalosporins grew and peaked in 2020 at 0.16 mg/PCU.

In 2011, this subclass accounted for 0.15% of total sales in Ireland, while in 2020 the figure was 0.35%.

Sales figures of fluoroquinolones have fluctuated slightly over the years, with a peak of 0.57 mg/PCU in 2012 and a trough of 0.34 mg/PCU in 2019.

Sales of polymyxins could not be reported due to commercial confidentiality as such a low number of such products are authorised on the market in Ireland.

However, sales of colistin are below 0.5 mg/PCU in Ireland.