FDA Seeks to Limit Antibiotics in Animals

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is seeking to limit antibiotics in animals, asking drug companies for assistance. The agency asked drug makers to minimize the long-established practice of dosing farm animals with antibiotics, a practice scientists and other experts blame on the dangerous, and often deadly, incidence of antibiotic resistance, said The Associated Press (AP).

We routinely discuss the dangers of antibiotic misuse and overuse, and how these practices are directly linked to antibiotic resistant diseases that can wreak havoc on the body, as well as the links between treating farm animals with low antibiotic doses and wide-spread drug resistance. We’ve explained that about 80% of the antibiotics used in the U.S. are used in farms; much to increase animal growth and offset filthy living conditions. Because livestock are treated with very low doses of the potent drugs, diseases are not being treated, but bacteria are encouraged to remain, growing more and more resistant. This has enabled, and continues to enable, bacteria to outsmart antibiotics and to survive, thrive, and strengthen so that existing drugs are powerless against their eradication.

The AP explained that some antibiotics are typically combined with animal feed and water so that livestock gain weight and remain fairly healthy while being crammed into stalls. The FDA says it has fought against this issue, but that the agriculture industry says drugs are a necessary component in today’s meat production industry said the AP.

The FDA explained: “Antimicrobial resistance occurs when bacteria or other microbes develop the ability to resist the effects of a drug. Once this occurs, a drug may no longer be as effective in treating various illnesses or infections. Because it is well established that all uses of antimicrobial drugs, in both humans and animals, contribute to the development of antimicrobial resistance, it is important to use these drugs only when medically necessary… FDA is taking this action to help preserve the effectiveness of medically important antimicrobials for treating disease in humans.”

FDA guidelines seek judicious antibiotic use; for antibiotic use to be saved for when needed to maintain animal health; and for drugs to be prescribed by a veterinarian, not over-the-counter by farmers, said the AP. “Now you have a veterinarian who will be consulting and providing advice to these producers, and we feel that is an important element to assure that they are in fact using these drugs appropriately,” William Flynn, a deputy director in FDA’s veterinary medicine center, told the AP. The draft recommendations are not binding.

The FDA issued three documents, published in the Federal Register, to assist veterinarians and farmers and which includes a final guidance for industry, The Judicious Use of Medically Important Antimicrobial Drugs in Food-Producing Animals. A draft guidance, open for public comment, was written to assist drug companies in voluntarily removing production use from their FDA-approved product labels; adding, where appropriate, scientifically-supported disease prevention, control, and treatment uses; and changing marketing status to include veterinary oversight. Also, a draft proposed Veterinary Feed Directive regulation, open for public comment, outlines how veterinarians can authorize use of certain animal drugs in feed, which is important to make the needed veterinary oversight feasible and efficient.

The FDA said a formal ban would have mandated individual hearings, by each medication. “The process we would have to go through is a formal hearing process, product-by-product that is extremely cumbersome,” Mike Taylor, FDA Commissioner for foods, told the AP. “There’s no point in going through those legalistic proceedings when companies are willing to make this shift voluntarily.” The FDA has been working with drug makers and believes they will support its measures, said the AP.

“It is critical that we take action to protect public health,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg, M.D. “The new strategy will ensure farmers and veterinarians can care for animals while ensuring the medicines people need remain safe and effective. We are also reaching out to animal producers who operate on a smaller scale or in remote locations to help ensure the drugs they need to protect the health of their animals are still available.”

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