Taking part in November’s antibiotic amnesty could make all the difference to pet owners’ attitudes to antimicrobial resistance (AMR). Fergus Allerton, AMR lead at veterinary group Linnaeus, explains how the veterinary profession can get involved.
AMR has been declared one of the top ten global public health threats by the World Health Organisation1 and any environmental contamination with antibiotics will only worsen this issue.
The veterinary profession has a responsibility to ensure judicious use and disposal of antimicrobials, particularly as the growing issue of AMR will affect people, pets and the planet for years to come.
This month (November 2022), veterinary organisations around the UK will be running an antibiotic amnesty for the first time, encouraging pet owners to return out-of-date and unused medicines for safe disposal. Veterinary practices can also direct any human antibiotics to NHS pharmacies.
Antibiotic residues have been detected in rivers around the world,2 potentially contributing to AMR and causing a negative impact on water quality and wildlife. Avoiding their entry into water systems and landfill, by simply returning these medicines to pharmacies, will help to keep antibiotics working and lower the risk of AMR.
It is fantastic to see a wide range of veterinary organisations taking part in the amnesty together. The veterinary groups CVS Group, IVC Evidensia, Linnaeus and Vets4Pets are working closely with the BEVA, BSAVA, BVA, FIVP, NOAH, PDSA, RCVS, RCVS Knowledge, RUMA CA&E, VMD and the Bella Moss Foundation.3
We are also collaborating with, and learning from, NHS England (Midlands). With the veterinary sector working with human health colleagues, this One Health approach will support the welfare of our patients, their owners and the environment around us.
Last year, the NHS in the Midlands launched a regional antibiotic amnesty, with participating pharmacies encouraged to discuss appropriate antibiotic disposal with patients and collect leftover antibiotics. This resulted in almost 8,000 amnesty-related conversations with patients and nearly 500 packs of antibiotics returned for safe disposal.
There is no better time to do this, with World Antibiotic Awareness Week (18-24 November) overlapping with the amnesty. In June 2023, it will be a regulatory requirement for all practices to actively take back medicines under the RCVS Practice Standards Scheme at veterinary general practitioner level. We can use the learnings from the amnesty to prepare for these important changes.
How to take part
Veterinary practices are encouraged to promote the campaign through reception posters, reminders by client care teams and updates on social media. Website resources are available at https://rumacae.org.uk/vet-antibioticamnesty and https://knowledge.rcvs.org.uk/amr/antibiotic-amnesty. An animated film communicating the central message of the amnesty is being shared on social media and is available to all practices to use on their social media channels.
Pet owners will also be asked to complete a short survey on the RUMA CA&E website via a QR code and https://rumacae.org.uk/antibioticamnesty. The survey intends to identify the reasons behind leftover antibiotic medications and to evaluate public understanding of AMR and antibiotic disposal.
Every participating veterinary practice will need to have a collection box available throughout November, with staff asked to record the number of returned packs and share their results with BSAVA via an online form (https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/VetABamnesty). All practices reporting back to BSAVA will be entered into a prize draw.
The prizes include two practice registrations to BSAVA Congress; one registration to BEVA Congress; a year’s access to the BSAVA online manual collection for up to five people; an individual The Webinar Vet membership; the latest NOAH compendium; and a BSAVA manual for five practices.
To take part in the amnesty, you can contact me at email@example.com or download our online resources at https://rumacae.org.uk/vet-antibioticamnesty and https://knowledge.rcvs.org.uk/amr/antibiotic-amnesty.
3 List of participants in full:
- British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA)
- British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA)
- British Veterinary Association (BVA)
- CVS Group
- Federation of Independent Veterinary Practices (FIVP)
- IVC Evidensia
- National Office of Animal Health (NOAH)
- Responsible Use of Medicines Alliance – Companion Animal & Equine (RUMA CA&E)
- Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS)
- RCVS Knowledge
- The Bella Moss Foundation
- Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD)