Sales of Veterinary Antibiotics Fell in 2011

UK - There is a decrease in sales of veterinary antibiotics (active ingredient basis) for food-producing animals of 100 tonnes, according to a report on veterinary drug use in 2011 compared to the previous year. Volumes of fluoroquinolones and cephalosporins used were also down from 2010.
calendar icon 16 January 2013
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This is the fourteenth in a series of reports designed to provide information about the sales of veterinary antimicrobial products in the UK, according to the Veterinary Medicines Directive (VMD). The data for this report have been calculated using the same methods developed and used since 2002.

Summary of the main points and changes to the report (all tonnages are expressed as active ingredient unless otherwise stated)

VMD highlights the following main points and changes presented in this year's report are:

  • The report covers the first-time sales of veterinary antimicrobial products in the UK from 2011.
  • There is a net 101-tonne decrease in sales of veterinary antibiotics.
  • Most of the sales reduction can be accounted for by specific product sales fluctuations between 2010 and 2011 as a result of changes to Marketing Authorisation (MA) ownership.
  • There is a decrease in sales of veterinary antibiotics for food-producing animals of 100 tonnes.
  • In 2011, 147kg less fluoroquinolones were sold than in 2010. For all cephalosporins, there was a decrease of 79kg.
  • During 2006-2011, between 50g and 68g of antimicrobial was sold for each tonne of live weight animal slaughtered.
  • The VMD continues to explore methods that can accurately incorporate information on the amounts of antimicrobials imported into and exported from the UK into this report.
  • No sales of antimicrobial growth promoters are reported as their use and sale were banned from 1 January 2006.

Total sales

During 2007, total sales of antibiotics decreased by 18 tonnes to 387 tonnes and again fell in 2008 to 384 tonnes. In 2009, total sales increased by 18 tonnes to 402 tonnes and increased by 45 tonnes to 447 tonnes in 2010. In 2011, net figures indicate sales have since decreased by 101 tonnes to total 346 tonnes. However, investigations confirmed that the previously reported sales increase in 2010 and the subsequent decrease in sales for 2011 were unlikely to be a true reflection of actual changes in usage. These fluctuations were found to be directly attributable to a small number of specific tetracycline products, whose Marketing Authorisation Holders changed between 2010 and 2011. It is thought that due to the anticipated change of ownership in 2010, there was a large increase in sales. This was followed by a corresponding reduction in sales in early 2011 after the change of ownership

The sales of veterinary anti-protozoals in 2011 were 283 tonnes, an increase of 28 tonnes since 2010. Sales of these products are mainly for food-producing animals. Sales of coccidiostats in 2011 were 277 tonnes, an increase of 37 tonnes from 2010. Coccidiostats are used mainly in food-producing animals, but particularly poultry reared on deep litter systems.

The sales of veterinary anti-fungals were 8.7 tonnes in 2011; a decrease of 1.9 tonnes on the previous year.

There were no sales of veterinary antimicrobial growth promoters in 2011 following the EU ban from 1 January 2006.

Food-producing animals

In 2011, sales of antibiotic products for use in food-producing animals accounted for approximately 84 per cent (290 tonnes) of the total annual sales of 346 tonnes which was comparable with previous years. However it is not possible to identify the proportion of the 290 tonnes which was administered to animals that did not enter the food chain.

Overall the sales of veterinary antibiotic products for use in food-producing animals showed a decrease in 2011, from the 2010 sales. There was variation in sales of veterinary antibiotic in 2011 for some of the individual food-producing species, e.g. pig and poultry products, decreased by 90 tonnes, pig-only products increased by 15 tonnes and poultry-only products decreased by 27 tonnes in 2011 compared to 2010. Sales of cattle only products in 2011 increased by one ton, whilst other species specific products and multi-species product sales revealed little change compared to 2010 sales figures.

By antibiotic class, between 2006 and 2011 more tetracyclines (32 per cent in 2011) were sold than any other class. In 2011, fluoroquinolone sales accounted for two tonnes (less than one per cent of the total) and 54 per cent of veterinary antibiotic products for food-producing animals only were sold for use as medicated feedingstuff, most of which are sold for use in pig and poultry farming.

Non-food-producing animals

Sales of antibiotics for veterinary medicinal products authorised only for use in non-food-producing animals in 2011 accounted for 10 per cent (35 tonnes) of the total annual sales (346 tonnes). It is currently impossible to determine what proportion of the 21 tonnes (six per cent) of antibiotics sold for use in either food-producing or non-food-producing animals was used in companion animals.

Non-food-producing animal species sales decreased by 791kg in 2011 compared to 2010.


Animal health background
Information on changes in livestock disease patterns that may have influenced sales of antimicrobials can be found in Defra funded disease surveillance reports available online [click here].

Regulatory background
All veterinary antibiotic products in the UK may be supplied only under veterinary prescription.

Numbers of livestock in the national herd
Table 1 shows the number of food-producing animals recorded each year in Defra's June Census for each of the last six reporting years. All figures are quoted in thousands of individual animals and are not adjusted for seasonality.

Numbers of livestock in the national herd in 2006-2011 by species
Data for 2010 have been updated since the previous report as they have now been validated.
*Data are provisional as not all were fully validated at the time of collection.

Interpreting the figures
VMD stresses that the figures in this report should only be regarded as indicative of overall trends in sales. There is no central record kept of the use of antimicrobials in animals in the UK. It is reasonable to assume that there is a direct relationship between the quantities of antimicrobials sold and used in the UK. However, the reported sales quantities are likely to be an overestimate of quantities actually used. Our assessment does not include any measure of the quality or the degree of uncertainty for the figures reported.

Further Reading

You can view the full report by clicking here.
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