Monday, April 16, 2012


- Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES -- The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced Wednesday that it will ask farmers, drug companies and veterinarians to curb the use of antibiotics in pigs, chickens, cows and other animals. The widespread practice has been shown to create drug resistance in microbes.

The presence of such “superbugs,” as they’re sometimes called, threatens public health because if they sicken humans, they can be impossible to treat.

The FDA’s recommendations included guidelines to help the industry phase out the antibiotics for “production use” and transfer oversight of the drugs for therapeutic work to veterinarians (that is, require a prescription). The FDA also offered draft guidance to drug companies for labeling their products to require a prescription and draft regulations to allow veterinarians to authorize the use of “certain drugs” in feed. Many of the antibiotics are used to promote growth in food-producing animals.

“This new strategy will ensure farmers and veterinarians can care for animals while ensuring the medicines people need remain safe and effective,” said agency commissioner Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg in a statement.
But many critics worried that the “voluntary initiative” would not be enough.

“This is a step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done,” said Rep. Louise M. Slaughter, D-N.Y., a physician who has been working for years in Congress to prevent overuse of antibiotics and preserve their effectiveness for medical treatment, in a statement. “’Nonbinding recommendations’ are not a strong enough antidote to the problem … additionally, the FDA’s pace here has been nothing short of glacial.”

Natural Resources Defense Council attorney Avinash Kar called the FDA’s action a “make-believe solution.”

The council and other environmental groups filed a lawsuit in 2011 to require the FDA to withdraw approval for non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in livestock.

In March, a federal judge ordered the agency to begin work to withdraw approval.
But national industry groups made it clear they consider the new requirements unnecessary. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association said that there was no conclusive scientific evidence that the use of antibiotics led to resistance in humans. And the National Pork Producers Council pointed to a Kansas State University study that said opponents of antibiotics overestimate the amount given to animals.

“Pork producers do not overuse antibiotics. We work with veterinarians to carefully consider if antibiotics are necessary and which ones to use,” R.C. Hunt, a pork producer from Wilson and NPPC president, said in a statement.

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