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Austrian AMR Action Plan confirms the potential of homeopathy

Apr 08, 2022

The latest version of the Austrian government’s national Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance (NAP-AMR) confirms the potential of homeopathy and other complementary medicines in tackling antimicrobial resistance.

Antimicrobial resistance has been identified as one of the greatest health threats worldwide. The World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), working jointly with the European Union, are using the "One Health" approach to introduce and intensify measures to reduce antibiotic resistance.

The current version of the Austrian plan was published on 25 March by the Bundesministerium Soziales, Gesundheit, Pflege und Konsumentenschutz (Ministry for social, health, care and consumer protection – BMSGPK). In line with the international organisations, it describes the projects and procedures planned in Austria to prevent infections and to reduce the use of antibiotics in all areas. The One Health approach is inter-sectoral, and thus the plan includes measures in both human medical and veterinary fields of activity, agriculture, food production and the environment, as well as education with training, further education and training, science and research in all sectors. This holistic approach is deemed essential to sustainably reduce the development and spread of resistance, to promote the quality of antimicrobial therapies and thus to maintain the effectiveness of the existing antimicrobial substances, for the good of humans, animals and the environment.

The plan identifies a number of actions to reduce and optimise the use of antibiotics in animals. One such measure is to explore possible uses of complementary medical methods, such as homeopathy and phytotherapy, to maintain or restore animal health (see section 5.3.2). Such methods are suggested both as a supplement to conventional care and as a prophylactic.

In this, the Action Plan aligns with EU Regulation 2018/848 on organic production and labelling of organic products, in force since 17 June 2018. This puts importance on optimal use of antibiotics and requires the use of homeopathy and phytotherapy in organic farms in preference to treatment with chemically synthesised allopathic veterinary medicinal products, including antibiotics, provided that their therapeutic effect is effective for the species of animal and for the condition for which the treatment is intended. According to the Regulation, integrative medicine (conventional medicine supplemented by complementary medicine) should be given preference whenever possible. The use of conventional medicines including antibiotics is also permitted if necessary, to avoid animal suffering and must be administered under the responsibility of a vet, when treatment with phytotherapeutic, homeopathic and other remedies is inappropriate. Complementary medical methods can be in addition to conventional methods to keep the animals healthy.

The Austrian AMR Action Plan further identifies a lack of veterinarians trained in integrative medicine and emphasises the importance of such training at both university and post-graduate levels, including  in acupuncture, neural therapy, chiropractic, homeopathy and phytotherapy, so that they can work in line with the preferred use of homeopathy and phytotherapy specified by the EU Regulation. It includes plans to roll out further training events in homeopathy and phytotherapy for veterinary professionals in order to increase competence and meet the demand.

In its list of references, the Action Plan includes studies on the proof of the effectiveness of homeopathy in infections or their prevention and also data from health services research, so-called real world data. These are described as an indication of the potential for optimising the use of antibiotics through homeopathic treatments. A narrative review from 2019, which examined the potential of complementary medicine as a whole in terms of reducing the use of antibiotics, also came to this conclusion. The review emphasizes the need for further research in order to be able to present methodologically high-quality evidence on (cost) effectiveness.

Current evidence suggests that the potential of complementary medicines in reducing the problem of antimicrobial resistance should be given serious consideration. Further research should be carried out in this area in both human and veterinary healthcare. Compared with other avenues, such as the identification and development of new antibiotics, such trials would be relatively easy and inexpensive to carry out and the potential rewards could be enormous. Policy makers in the field of antimicrobial resistance have the opportunity to explore and exploit the One Health multi-sector approach to identify areas of convergence between conventional and complementary medicine and facilitate a truly integrative, people-centred approach which will both increase the basic health of every EU citizen and at the same time introduce measures to protect the environment. ‘One Health’ offers an innovative framework in which our industry can more successfully demonstrate its potential.

In this context, ECHAMP gives a warm welcome to this Austrian initiative.