July 28, 2005

FDA bans Bayer antibiotic for poultry use

By Randy Fabi

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Food and Drug Administration on
Thursday banned the use of a poultry antibiotic made by Bayer,
an unprecedented action aimed at preventing the rise of
drug-resistant germs that infect people.

The FDA, which first proposed the ban five years ago, said
the use of the drug, Baytril, in chickens has made it difficult
for doctors to treat human patients with food poisoning. The
drug was sometimes used by farmers to treat entire poultry
flocks when a few birds showed signs of respiratory disease.

FDA Commissioner Lester Crawford said Baytril "has not been
shown to be safe for use in poultry." The ruling, effective
Sept. 12, does not affect other approved uses of the drug.

The Union of Concerned Scientists hailed the ruling as a
"big victory for public health." Bayer said it was "surprised
and disappointed" and mulling whether to appeal the decision in

Baytril is part of a family of potent antibiotics known as
fluoroquinolones, which physicians consider valuable for
treating serious infections in people. The class of drugs
includes Cipro, a well-known human antibiotic.

Health officials argue that the widespread use of the drug
by livestock farmers was one reason that more germs were
becoming resistant to other fluoroquinolones.

Bacteria learn to outsmart antibiotics when repeatedly
exposed to the medicines. Humans then pick up drug-resistant
bacteria when they eat or handle contaminated meat.

"We are surprised and disappointed with the commissioner's
decision," said Bob Walker, spokesman for Bayer's U.S. animal
health division. "We will soon make a determination on which
course to take next."

Baytril was used in the mid-1990s to treat about 1 percent
of the U.S. chicken population, Walker said.

Consumer groups and health experts welcomed the ban.

"It's a big victory for public health in that the FDA has
acted to protect the efficacy of human drugs," said Margaret
Mellon, food director at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The ban is the first time the FDA has withdrawn an
antibiotic drug for animals because of a concern about its
impact on human use, she said.

Mellon said she hoped this would be the first of many
poultry drugs to be taken off the market because of concerns
about antibiotic resistance.

Bayer said sales of Baytril do not represent a major part
of the company's revenue.