30th anniversary of IFAH-Europe : interview with Roxane Feller, Secretary General at IFAH-Europe


2017 is a milestone year for IFAH-Europe, since the association is representing the animal health industry in Europe for 30 years! On this occasion, pharma.be, a proud member of IFAH-Europe,interviewed Roxane Feller on past achievements, current challenges and future opportunities of the animal health industry in Europe.


IFAH-Europe, representing the European Animal Health industry for 30 years

What are the main achievements of IFAH-Europe?

R. Feller: “We have achieved quite a lot in the past 30 years: from positioning the industry as a key stakeholder on various issues, and participating in a large number of important consultations about our products and how they are regulated, to forming alliances with other stakeholders, promoting the important role our products play in wider society, and promoting harmonisation of standards for making veterinary medicines available where needed.

To cite some examples:

·VICH, a trilateral (EU-Japan-USA) programme launched in 1996, saw the industry come together along with the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) to establish harmonised technical requirements for veterinary product registration. VICH can now boast more than 50 approved guidelines in use worldwide.

·ETPGAH, the European Technology Platform for Global Animal Health, launched in 2004, was an industry-led group focused on driving technological developments against threats from emerging diseases to the European animal and human population, also taking a global perspective. DISCONTOOLS, a follow-up initiative to ETPGAH, originally an EU FP 7-funded project, was awarded to industry for research on animal disease prioritisation and treatment gaps.

·EPRUMA, the European Platform for the Responsible Use of Medicines in Animals, founded in 2005, is an industry initiative and alliance-building effort with the vets and farmers, among other stakeholders, in Europe to promote responsible use of our products.

It is also important to mention that some of our members’ products have played an important role in many disease success’ stories over the past 30 years. A few examples: the eradication of Rinderpest (2011), the progress in eliminating rabies by 2030, the strong decline in BSE cases thanks to prevention and control measures, the successful protective measures against salmonella impacting human and animal health… We hope that we will continue to have many more successes to protect against animal diseases like these.

Another important achievement over this 30-year period has been guiding our members through two legislative reviews of the rules governing the authorisation and marketing of our products in the EU, with the 2nd review currently still underway. We hope that the final outcome of the current review will provide a real impetus for the industry to continue innovating in animal health and investing in the European market.”

What are the current challenges for the veterinary industry in Europe ?

R. Feller: “Results of a pan-European research study (2016) by IFAH-Europe showed that veterinary medicinal products and their role in safeguarding both animals and consumers against health threats were not well understood in day-to-day society. Making our messages clear to the relevant policymakers and opinion leaders, who are not necessarily experts in the domain, will remain a key challenge over the coming years. This is especially important in light of the current socio-political environment calling for restrictions on the use of antibiotics in animals. We support an approach that advocates deploying greater care in prescribing antibiotics in both humans and animals and encouraging innovation, but we want to avoid a situation where veterinarians may no longer be permitted to use antibiotics to treat sick animals, which could naturally be damaging not only for the health of the animals, but by extension also for their welfare.

Another major challenge is ensuring a continued desire for company investment in Europe and encouraging a much-needed boost for increased innovation in animal medicines. The impact assessment for the current legislative review highlighted a number of challenges that should be addressed by the new legislation. One such challenge is the issue of data protection. Companies need to have assurances that their substantial investments in new or improved products can offer an equitable return on investment over a reasonable period of time.”

One health principle: what is the importance of animal health for human health?

R. Feller: “First, it is important for farmers to have a good range of veterinary medicines available to enable them to keep their animals healthy and to produce safe food in an efficient manner. Effective prevention and treatment improves animal health and welfare, prevents mortality, avoids product losses for the farmer, reduces the environmental impact through efficient use of resources (like water and feed) and helps to ensure reduced incidence of food-borne illnesses for people. Every year people get sick due to foodborne illnesses coming from animals, such as Salmonellosis and Campylobacteriosis which can cause fever, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, and nausea.

Ensuring the health of animals is vital to safeguarding the health of people, not only for safe, healthy food for all but also in terms of disease transmission. According to the OIE (World Organisation for Animal Health), of the nearly 1,500 infectious diseases we know affect people, just over 60% can pass between animals and people (known as zoonoses), and over the past three decades, approximately 75% of new emerging human infectious diseases have been zoonotic. Sometimes tackling the disease in the animal as a first step is easier, more effective and less expensive than addressing the human form of the disease. Rabies is a good example of this, as it is much more effective to control human rabies by preventing it in the dog population.

Speaking of dogs, I got my first experience of how pets can be good for human health and well-being during my very first week at IFAH-Europe when I met with a young girl who has an assistance dog which alerts her in advance of low or high blood sugar eventualities. This can essentially save her from life-threatening situations. IFAH-Europe has been organising a European Pet Event over several years where we highlight the benefits of companion animals and assistance animals and promote responsible pet ownership, which of course includes healthcare. We have hosted eleven events surrounding this theme and have showcased all kinds of animals, from rescue dogs and sleigh dogs, to therapy horses and even the Hero Rats! We will continue to promote the benefits of companion animal ownership through such awareness-raising events.”

Belgium’s role in IFAH-Europe

R. Feller: “pharma.be was one of the founding members of IFAH-Europe back in 1987 and there has been a strong participation of Belgium in the European association’s activities with representation over the years by Messrs Pierre Claessens, Louis Loontjens, Tim De Kegel, Philippe van den Bossche, and now Davy Persoons.

Aside from participation in the various committees and expert groups within IFAH-Europe, as the home country for the association, Belgium has also played an important role in helping to organise various press trips (notably to Gent University veterinary faculty) and farm visits to help bring the reality of animal health products in action to the media and policy-makers. This is an important part of our work to raise awareness of the importance of our products.

And, when it comes to promoting the responsible use of our products, the Belgian platform AMCRA, supported by pharma.be, is an associate member of the European Platform for the Responsible Use of Medicines in Animals (EPRUMA), actively contributing to the various activities of the platform. We hope for a strong continued collaboration with Belgium over the next 30 years!”