RUMA CA&E unveils results of the 2023 Antibiotic Amnesty at BSAVA Congress

21 March 2024

The Responsible use of Medicines Alliance – Companion Animal and Equine (RUMA CA&E), has today unveiled the results of the 2023 Veterinary Antibiotic Amnesty at a press conference at the BSAVA Congress in Manchester (21 March 2024).

The amnesty, which was led and funded by RUMA CA&E, brought the veterinary community together once again to support this important initiative and promote the concept of safe disposal of antibiotics. It also served as a way of driving wider awareness around AMR and the importance of antimicrobial stewardship (AMS), which both pet owners and the profession play a key role in managing. The campaign achieved a threefold increase in the number of returned antibiotic tablets (vs 2022); more than double the amount of topical preparations containing antibiotics returned (vs 2022); and a 70% increase in practices reported as having taken part during the 2023 campaign (vs 2022).

During the Veterinary Antibiotic Amnesty, veterinary practices were invited to reach out to their client base and encourage the return of unused (or partially unused) packs of antibiotics for safe disposal, with the environmental impact of disposing of these medicines inappropriately at the forefront of the communications alongside the dangers of using leftover antibiotics on pets without veterinary guidance.

This was the second One Health Antibiotic Amnesty which took place in veterinary practices across the UK during November 2023, and built on the success of the pilot veterinary Antibiotic Amnesty from November 2022.

The 2023 veterinary Antibiotic Amnesty saw the return of over 2,458 antibiotic tablets (more than three times last years’ total), 160 oral antibiotic suspensions (no data from last year to compare), 119 topical preparations containing antibiotics (more than double last year), and 11 antibiotic injections (a small decrease). A range of antibiotic products including highest priority critically important antibiotics (fluoroquinolones) were also among the medicines returned.

2023 also saw sign up from 302 practices and veterinary organisations who requested to receive regular communications updates about the campaign.

To support wider awareness, an enhanced set of communications assets and resources for practices to use were produced and publicised. The campaign again attracted significant media attention across industry and sector titles as well as consumer media.

The latest Antibiotic Amnesty was funded and project managed by RUMA CA&E. The Alliance has taken the amnesty on as a flagship campaign aligned to its vision and mission, and will once again be leading and co-ordinating it in 2024. RUMA CA&E Secretary General, Steve Howard, says: “We are delighted with the results of the 2023 Antibiotic Amnesty and the year-on-year uplifts in the level of returned of antibiotics, plus the increase in involvement and engagement we saw from right across the industry. We are fully aware of the pressures on the profession at the moment, so this increase has been great to see and we are very grateful to those that took part, but we know that there is still much work to do to get even more practices onboard in the future.

“The overarching aims of an initiative such as this, is to focus attention and efforts both across the profession and in support of educating pet owners of the role they can also play in preventing AMR through AMS activities.”

Fergus Allerton, one of the veterinary campaign leads for the amnesty, says: “The veterinary profession is already actively engaged in promoting prudent antimicrobial use and, has developed resources including the BSAVA/SAMSoc PROTECT ME poster to raise awareness. Responsibly administering antibiotics to pets only when needed, represents a key stewardship goal, but any benefit can be reduced if the unused antibiotics end up polluting the environment due to unsafe or improper disposal. We have worked hard to ensure the Antibiotic Amnesty campaign builds all of these factors into the resources to help educate and inform pet owners., as well as drive a unified focus across the profession.

“We also recognise that running the amnesty campaign in November gives specific and timely focus to the AMR topic, given it is a month in which a significant amount of AMR activity takes place. But it is important to ensure that pet owners know and understand that returning out of date and unused antibiotics can, and should happen at any time of the year – and the profession needs to raise awareness of this with owners. Equally, the 2023 RCVS Practice Standards Scheme includes provisions that encourage veterinarians to facilitate the return of all unused pharmaceuticals, not just antibiotics, for appropriate disposal. This is a positive step but it still needs ongoing focus and communication efforts by practices to owners in order to achieve significant returns.”

A recent BVA survey revealed that almost 90 percent of UK vets are concerned about losing the ability to treat infections in animals as a result of antimicrobial resistance, while other concerns included potential enforced restriction on veterinary use of antimicrobials in the future, or the inability to control infections following surgery. Just a third of vets felt clients were aware of AMR, with those working in small animal practice reporting that quite a large proportion of clients were not aware of the AMR issue.

Commenting on these survey insights, Steve, adds: “The results from the BVA survey show that AMR is very much a key focus and worry for the profession, and finding ways to educate and inform owners through initiatives such as the Antibiotic Amnesty can play a key role. Indeed, all the Antibiotic Amnesty stakeholders continue to recognise that driving greater awareness among pet owners about AMR should hopefully translate into safer disposal practices and thus a reduced threat from AMR. My thanks go to everyone that took part last year and I hope we can encourage even more support for the 2024 campaign.”

To read the full campaign evaluation, visit: Reports – RUMA CA&E (

The panel launching the Antibiotic Amnesty campaign evaluation at BSAVA Congress on 21 March included:

  • Carl Gorman – BSAVA President
  • Fergus Allerton – Small Animal Medicine Clinician, Antibiotic Amnesty Veterinary Campaign Lead
  • Steve Howard – Secretary General, RUMA CA&E
  • Mary Bawn – Communications, RUMA CA&E – Antibiotic Amnesty Project Manager and RUMA CA&E Communications Manager