NZ sees 23% Decline in antibiotic sales, marking fifth consecutive year of decrease
Health and Wellbeing
Health and Wellbeing

NZ sees 23% Decline in antibiotic sales, marking fifth consecutive year of decrease

In a positive turn for public health, New Zealand has witnessed a significant drop in the sales of veterinary and horticultural antibiotics for the fifth consecutive year, according to the latest report by New Zealand Food Safety. 

The 2022 Antibiotic agricultural compound sales analysis, part of a national initiative to combat antimicrobial resistance (AMR), revealed a substantial 23% decrease in total antibiotic sales in 2022.

Antibiotic misuse poses a global threat, identified by the World Health Organization as a top 10 health challenge and Vincent Arbuckle, Deputy Director-General of New Zealand Food Safety stressed the importance of managing such a threat.

"Antibiotics are essential for the health of humans, animals, and plants. However, their excessive use can lead to the emergence of resistant bacteria, rendering antibiotics ineffective," he said.

Of particular concern are antibiotics vital for human health. The report disclosed an 8% reduction in sales of antibiotics critical for human health, totalling 6,285kg in 2022, the lowest since 2017. 

In 2017, 8,952kg of these crucial antibiotics were sold, indicating a substantial 42% decrease in overall antibiotic sales from 2017 to 2022, dropping from 71,361kg to 41,033kg.

Veterinary antibiotic sales by species/sector

  • 57% sold for use in dairy cattle

  • 16% sold for use in pigs

  • 9% sold for use in horses

  • 4% sold for use in beef cattle

  • 4% sold for use in meat poultry

  • 4% sold for use in sheep

  • 4% sold for use in companion and non-production animals

  • 1% sold for use in layer poultry

  • <1% sold for use in deer

Arbuckle credited this decline to a joint effort by the industry and New Zealand Food Safety to promote responsible antibiotic use. 

"The vigilant approach of veterinarians, farmers, and industry stakeholders, combined with our continuous monitoring and support, has effectively minimized the incidence of AMR."

New Zealand Food Safety is now exploring stricter regulatory controls on antibiotics used in plants and animals. This comprehensive initiative, spanning five years, aims to review hundreds of antibiotic products, potentially leading to further reductions in antibiotic use.

The New Zealand Antimicrobial Resistance Action Plan, developed collaboratively in 2017, envisions managing antimicrobials as a shared and valuable resource. The plan, jointly executed by the Ministry of Health, New Zealand Food Safety, and representatives from human health, animal health, and agriculture sectors, is due for an update next year. 

This ongoing commitment reflects New Zealand's determination to sustain the efficacy of antibiotics, ensuring their effectiveness in treating infections in humans, animals, and plants.

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