To Avoid the Antibiotic Apocalypse We Must Reign in Drug and Farming Companies

For Immediate Release

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Kevin Smith, media officer
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Email: kevin.smith@globaljustice.org.uk

To Avoid the Antibiotic Apocalypse We Must Reign in Drug and Farming Companies

Trade deal with Trump could increase demand for high-antibiotic farming practices, warn campaigners.

WASHINGTON - Campaign group Global Justice Now has warned that action to prevent the “antibiotic apocalypse” must take account of the role of big drug and farm companies in driving growing antibiotic resistance. It follows today’s warning by the Government’s Chief Medical Officer, Prof Dame Sally Davies, of the 'end of modern medicine', and comes as the UK government leads a meeting of global health chiefs in Berlin on ways to tackle the problem.

Nick Dearden, Director of Global Justice Now said:

“A lot of attention is put on antibiotics being given to people with colds by the NHS, and sure we’ve got to change our behaviour, but there are bigger reasons for growing antibiotic resistance.
 
“Big drug companies don't feel there's enough profit to be made from researching antibiotics – so we haven't discovered any new ones in decades. Then, we feed too many healthy animals with antibiotics so we can keep them in unhealthy conditions. Globally animals are given twice as many antiobiotics as humans. In the US, antibiotics are stuffed into animals simply to make them grow faster. It’s scandalous, and under a US-UK trade deal, we could be forced to import such meat here, making the problem worse.
 
“The answer is more sustainable, small-scale farming, regulation of agribusiness and big drug companies, and more public research of medicines because the big companies can’t be trusted to do life-saving research themselves.”

Background

Global Justice Now’s briefing Animals, drugs and superbugs: How corporations are making us sick looks at the root causes of the problem and calls for four urgent steps to be taken:

  • A ban on routine mass medication of groups of livestock where no disease has been detected. Use of antibiotics in livestock should only be in case of diagnosed diseases. About 90% of antibiotics given to livestock is given as mass medication to groups of pigs and poultry; this should be reserved for outbreaks of diseases.
  • Urgent curbs on farm use of antibiotics that are critically important to human health. These antibiotics should only be used as a last resort and only in individual animals..
  • Animal welfare improvements as part of the strategy to curb antibiotic use. The current large-scale industrial livestock farming keep animals under such poor conditions that they need large amounts of antibiotics to stay healthy.
  • Regulations to be made and enforced independently from the corporations benefiting from high antibiotic use. To ensure that human health is prioritised over corporate profits, we need strong safeguards of regulatory bodies to protect them from corporate conflicts of interest.
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Global Justice Now is a democratic social justice organisation working as part of a global movement to challenge the powerful and create a more just and equal world. We mobilise people in the UK for change, and act in solidarity with those fighting injustice, particularly in the global south.

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