Health professionals urge the European Commission to safeguard life-saving medicine colistin

  • Europe

150 European health professionals are calling on the European Commission to reserve the essential, last-resort medicine, colistin, for human use to preserve public health and combat the antimicrobial resistance (AMR) threat.

Infections that are usually treatable can become lethal when they develop resistance - AMR is a leading cause of death in the world, killing 1.27 million people a year globally. Immediate action and structural change is needed to mitigate this threat and preserve the efficiency of life-saving antimicrobial drugs.

Delivering a letter to the European Commission today, 150 individual health professionals and 18 supporting health professionals and animal welfare groups are calling for colistin to be reserved for human medicine only, effectively banning its use in EU food production and imports.

Colistin is a so-called last-resort medicine – it is considered a last line of defence and is increasingly used against multidrug-resistant bacteria. The WHO includes colistin on its List of Critically Important Antimicrobials for Human Medicine, yet it is still used in European food production to sustain intensive farming practices, such as early weaning in piglets. The unnecessary use of such a vital medicine threatens to undermine its efficacy as bacteria may grow resistance.

Under the new Veterinary Medical Products Regulation, the European Commission is developing a list of antimicrobials to ban in EU food production and imports as part of its plan to tackle the AMR health threat. In a letter to the European Commission, 150 health professionals are calling for colistin to be on this list, protecting it for vital human treatment only.

The latest sales data shows that colistin in food production is primarily sold in forms suitable for group treatment. This suggests that colistin is routinely being used inappropriately, typically as a preventative measure to compensate for poor farming practices. Not only is this vital antimicrobial being used unnecessarily - its misuse in food production is undermining its ability to treat lethal infections in humans. The European Commission must reserve colistin for human health.”

- Erik Ruiz, Safer Pharma Project Officer, Health Care Without Harm Europe

Although antimicrobial use is the leading cause of AMR, antimicrobials are commonly overused and misused in intensive food production systems in Europe and beyond. Discontinuing the irresponsible use of antimicrobials in European farms is crucial to mitigate this global health and development threat.


Anamarija Tomičić, Safer Pharma Communications Officer -