Between 8% and 12% of patients admitted to hospitals in the EU suffer adverse events such as healthcare-associated infections (HAIs), which place a heavy burden on limited health service budgets. According to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, 1 in 20 hospital in-patients, on average, suffers from an HAI in the EU, that is to say, 4.1 million patients annually, and every year 37,000 people in the EU die as a result of an HAI, even though 20%-30% of these infections are considered to be preventable by intensive hygiene and control programmes.

MEPs have suggested a number of measures to improve patient safety, such as tackling growing resistance to human and veterinary antibiotics by using existing treatments more responsibly and promoting innovation. Specific measures include strictly prohibiting their use without prescription, implementing marketing practices designed to prevent conflicts of interest between producers and prescribers, and better information, monitoring and infection control.

Noting that resistance to certain commonly used antibiotics is encountered in at least 25% of cases in several member states, MEPs also urge pharmaceutical companies to invest in developing new antimicrobial agents. MEPs also advocate responsible use of antimicrobials in veterinary medicine, including medicated feed, by allowing their use only for treatment after veterinary diagnosis. Two pieces of legislation on the matter are under discussion in the European Parliament. The use of veterinary antibiotics should therefore gradually be restricted to therapeutic purposes, by progressively eliminating their use for prophylactic ones. Metaphylaxis, i.e. the mass medication of animals to cure sick ones on farms whilst preventing the infection of healthy ones, should also be minimised, say MEPs.

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