Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Systems

Antibiotic tax could be as effective as a ban, study shows

A tax on antimicrobial drugs for livestock animals could help mitigate the rise of drug resistance while raising revenue, a modelling study indicates.

Taxing antibiotics and similar treatments in livestock would influence their use as effectively as banning them in helping to counter the rise of antimicrobial resistance, a study has shown.

The research, involving the Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Systems, demonstrates the value of an economic approach instead of restricted use of antimicrobial treatments in animals.

Policymakers should consider taxation as an option to influence appropriate use of antimicrobials in livestock, researchers suggest, at a time when resistance is worsening and some bans for routine use are already in place.

Modelling study

Researchers from ETH Zürich and the Global Academy used models to simulate spread and development of resistance to multiple antimicrobial treatments in a livestock population.

They studied the likely impact of various taxes on their system, and found that this was comparable to bans on antibiotic usage in reducing resistance and preventing increases in overall infection.

A 50 per cent tax on antimicrobials could generate a global revenue of more than US$1bn, which could be reinvested into antibiotic development or agricultural biosecurity, their analysis showed.

Differential taxation – which varies depending on the market price for goods – was also able to maintain a high availability of antibiotics over time compared to taxing at a flat rate, the team found.

This approach also led to the lowest rates of failure and highest potential revenue across all forms of taxation, according to the team’s calculations.

The study was published in One Health.

A tax on antimicrobials is a valid approach that would change people’s behaviour as effectively than a ban on their use, our analysis shows. This would create a double dividend where we can influence consumers’ actions as well as raise revenue, which can be circulated back to those who need it.

Professor Dominic MoranGlobal Academy of Agriculture and Food Systems

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