FDA Aims To Curb Antibiotic Use In Animal Food Production
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued guidelines calling on international pharmaceutical companies to phase out the production of antibiotics designed for use in animal production facilities. These drugs are often added to chicken or cow feed not to cure a sick animal, but to help them gain weight faster – a side-effect of the medications.
“We need to be selective about the drugs we use in animals and when we use them,” said William Flynn, the deputy director for science policy at FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM). “Antimicrobial resistance may not be completely preventable, but we need to do what we can to slow it down.”
In the guideline released on Wednesday, the federal agency asked drug and animal health companies to voluntarily remove references to usability in animal production from medically-important antibiotics. According to the FDA, once the change is made – the products in question can only be used in food-producing animals to treat, avoid or control disease under the order of a licensed veterinarian.
“This action promotes the judicious use of important antimicrobials, which protects public health and, at the same time, ensures that sick and at-risk animals receive the therapy they need,” said Bernadette Dunham, a director at CVM. “We realize that these steps represent changes for veterinarians and animal producers, and we have been working to make this transition as seamless as possible.”
Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-NY, called the FDA’s recommendation on antibiotics inadequate, “with no mechanism for enforcement and no metric for success.”
Steven Roach, senior analyst with advocacy group Keep Antibiotics Working, agreed.
“Our fear … is that there will be no reduction in antibiotic use as companies will either ignore the plan altogether or simply switch from using antibiotics for routine growth promotion to using the same antibiotics for routine disease prevention,” he told Reuters.
According to Reuters, the FDA has already received support from drugmakers Zoetis and Elanco, both of which sell a large percentage of the products being targeted by the guidelines. Elanco released a statement saying it would voluntarily restrict the use of antibiotics used to treat both humans and animals “only to therapeutic purposes of treating, controlling and preventing diseases in animals under the supervision of a veterinarian.”
The first steps toward the new recommendations came in 2010 when the FDA drafted a proposal that called for the phasing out the use of medically important antibiotics in food production. The new guidelines lay out a strategy for achieving that stated goal and mark the start of the formal implementation period.
As part of the new guidelines, the agency is asking animal drug companies to notify the FDA within the next three months of their intent to comply with the voluntary regulations. Companies would then have three years to completely implement these changes.
“Based on our outreach, we have every reason to believe that animal pharmaceutical companies will support us in this effort,” said Michael R. Taylor, FDA’s deputy commissioner for foods and veterinary medicine.