25 May 2017 | Pasay, Philippines

The emergence of Antimicrobial Resistance (AMR) in the Southeast Asia is a rising concern. Multi-drug resistant pathogens have been widely disseminated, both in hospitals and throughout communities across many countries. The prevalence rates of methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), macrolide-resistant Streptococcus pneumoniae, and multi-drug resistant enteric pathogens are increasing due to the recent growing number of extremely drug-resistant Gram-negative bacilli in the region.

The ASEAN community recognizes the need to have a holistic, multi-sectoral, and multi-disciplinary approach to address the increasing threat of AMR which is a significant public health threat that causes major health and economic consequences both in human and veterinary health, and affects trade and global security. The AMS have agreed to take on the “One Health” strategy in combating the AMR problem.

The Philippine government has created an inter-agency committee for the formulation and implementation of a National Action Plan to Combat AMR which brought together all involved key partner agencies geared towards identifying and implementing concrete efforts and plans to mitigate and control AMR. Stipulated in the action plan are the country strategies that focus on the following core areas: leadership and governance; surveillance and laboratory capacity; access to essential medicines of assured quality; awareness and promotion; infection prevention and control; rational antimicrobial use among humans and animals; and research and development.

In relation to the Philippine advocacy to combat AMR, the national government has hosted a consultative meeting in order to finalize the ASEAN Leaders’ Declaration on AMR on 10-11 May 2017 in Pasay, Philippines. It was attended by the technical officers from the ASEAN Member States (AMS) who represented the human health, animal health, agriculture, food, trade, and environment sectors. Representatives from development partners such as the World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization, and World Organisation for Animal Health who discussed the global and regional situation of the AMR problem were present as well.

The first day was dedicated to the presentation of the draft Declaration to the whole panel prior to the conduct of break-out sessions. The participants were divided into four groups representing the following sectors: human health and trade; animal health; agriculture and environment; and, food. Guide questions relevant to their field of expertise were provided and each group was tasked to delegate a rapporteur.

Inputs from the break-out sessions were synthesized and significant comments were incorporated in the Declaration which was finalized the following day. Differences in the regulatory structures of the AMS which will affect the management of antimicrobials and other medicines available in the market were noted. AMR is not a priority concern in some sectors and undertaking relevant initiatives with limited support is also a challenge.

Gathering the political commitment to combat AMR from their respective leaders was stressed during the conclusion of the meeting. The AMS also agreed to align their AMR initiatives and foster an environment that will enable sharing of best practices.

The next steps would involve the endorsement of the Declaration to the Seniors Official Meeting on Health Development (SOMHD) which shall be elevated to the ASEAN Health Ministers Meeting (AHMM). The Declaration is planned to be adopted on the 31st ASEAN Summit in November 2017.

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