Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Antibiotics to be curbed

The United States is proposing to restrict the use of antibiotics as growth promotants for livestock and poultry.

It’s a long-discussed proposal with people on both sides of the issue taking strong positions.

Many farmers, feed millers and drug companies oppose the move to require a veterinary prescription, but many health-industry and consumer-advocate members want even stricter regulations than these proposals to reduce the incidence of antibiotic resistance.

Under the proposal which is up for comment over the next 90 days, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will require feed mills and/or farmers to obtain a veterinary prescription for any use of antibiotics. Prescriptions will be allowed for use as a growth promotant.

The government amended its regulations in 1996 to create a new classification for veterinary prescriptions of this kind, but few drugs were covered by the new classification.

Most drugs and medicines for livestock and poultry are sold either over the counter – i.e. freely available to feed mills and farmers – or require a veterinary prescription, usually to treat an illness or infection.

This classification is more flexible for farmers, feed millers and veterinarians. One of the key requirements will be recording antibiotic uses and keeping the records for one year.

“We know that widespread use of antibiotics in animals and humans can contribute to antimicrobial resistance, and we know it has significant health consequences,” Michael Taylor, FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, said in announcing the proposals.

FDA is issuing a final guidance document that explains how animal pharmaceutical companies can voluntarily remove growth enhancement and feed-efficiency indications from the approved uses of their products, and move the therapeutic uses of these products from over-the-counter availability to marketing status requiring veterinary oversight.

With those changes made, as laid out in a proposed rule, the affected products can then only be used in food-producing animals to treat, prevent or control disease with a prescription from a licensed veterinarian.

Drug companies will have 90 days to indicate whether they will cooperate. Those who don’t might face regulatory action.

The FDA says it will phase in the new restrictions over three years, gauging effectiveness along the way.

So far Canada has not banned the growth-promoting use of antibiotics, but it’s likely that it will follow the U.S. lead to keep exports moving readily into the U.S.