Concerned about drug resistance, FDA targets anti-
microbials used in livestock production. BY MELISSA MALESKE
FDA scales back
use of antibiotics in
and drug makers
Use for growth
When public health talks in the U.S. turn to antibiotic resistance, the conversation invariably
leads to the use of antibiotics in food animals. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has
confirmed that 80 percent of antibacterial drugs in the U.S. are sold for agricultural use. And
Department of Agriculture (DOA) surveys have found that 83 percent to 84 percent of swine
farms, cattle feedlots and sheep farms administer antimicrobials in feed or water, which can
lead to inconsistent dosing. Many of those drugs are identical or closely related to human drugs.
In newly released voluntary guidance likely to significantly limit such
use of antimicrobial drugs, the FDA
cites numerous peer-reviewed scientific
studies, along with a host of reports dating back to 1969 from groups including
the World Health Organization and the
Institute of Medicine, suggesting a relationship between the injudicious use of
antibiotics in food-producing animals
and antibiotic resistance.
Industry groups have countered
the FDA with numbers that down-play the link. But Sean Minahan,
a partner at Lamson, Dugan and
Murray in Omaha, Neb., says that
whether the FDA’s findings are right
or wrong, at this point the momentum is in its favor. The research to
support limitations on antibiotic use
in animals is building, the Obama
administration supports such limits
and the organic and all-natural food
movements are huge and growing.
On April 11, the FDA released
three documents addressing the
responsible use of medically important antibiotics in food-producing
animals. Implementation of these policies
would eliminate nontherapeutic uses of
medically important antibiotics in animal
agriculture and require veterinary supervision of therapeutic uses.
“That is a major change, and it is a
policy that would align animal-health
uses of antibiotics with the way they’re
used in human health,” says Ron Phillips,
vice president for legislative and public
affairs for the Animal Health Institute
(AHI), an industry group that represents
animal drug developers and producers.
The FDA’s April guidance eliminates all
nontherapeutic uses of antibiotics in food-producing animals, limiting use to what
is “considered necessary for assuring animal health,” which it specifically limits to
treatment, control and prevention.
It also directs that antimicrobials—which for decades have been
available over-the-counter to livestock producers—now should be
used only with veterinary oversight
Antibiotics the FDA has
approved for animal use currently
fall under four label claims—
treatment, control, prevention
and growth promotion, or the
claim that use of a drug leads to
greater growth with less feed.
The guidance eliminates this last
claim (see “Label Changes,” p. 37).
Nontherapeutic use of antibiotics is common among livestock