Animal Health Companies, Feds Agreeing To End Growth Antibiotics

Beefs and Beliefs

FDA move already underway to stop use of human-medicine antibiotics for animal growth promotion.

Published on: November 15, 2012

The U.S. is in the process of eliminating use of antibiotics for growth promotion, says an animal health industry insider.

"Over the next four years the use of antibiotics for growth promotion will be eliminated for medicinally important compounds and it will be done with dialogue and cooperation," says Ron Phillips, legislative vice president of the National Animal Health Institute.

In other words, the animal health industries are working with the government to stop the practice.

Medicinally important compounds would include such antimicrobials as penicillin and tetracycline – drugs either used in human medicine or from families used in human medicine.

Ron Phillips says the animal health industries have collectively agreed to cede antibiotics as growth promotants rather than face regulatory confiscation as happened in Europe.
Ron Phillips says the animal health industries have collectively agreed to cede antibiotics as growth promotants rather than face regulatory confiscation as happened in Europe.

Phillips says this voluntary cooperation is superior to what happened 10 years ago in the European Union when the use of antibiotics for growth promotion was stopped via regulation. He also says the animal health industry generally believes is will reduce public pressure for reduction in antibiotic usage in food animals.

In this country antibiotics are approved by FDA for four purposes:

  1. Disease treatment.
  2. Disease control.
  3. Disease prevention.
  4. Growth promotion.

Be aware that language on this topic varies when one listens to the public debate, Phillips says. Many use the term "therapeutic use" only for disease treatment but the truth is the FDA and AVMA use the term "therapeutic use" for the first three on the list – treatment, control and prevention.

In FDA's Guidance 209 document this cooperative elimination strategy was mapped out, specifically because it was considered that "subtherapeutic" use ultimately increases the chances of resistance in humans, specifically when considering antibiotics which are medicinally important.

Language drawn directly from the Guidance 209 document says:

"In general, FDA’s GFI #152 is premised on the concept that increasing the exposure of bacterial populations to antimicrobial drugs increases the risk of generating resistance to those antimicrobial drugs.

"Pursuant to this principle, the administration of medically important antimicrobial drugs to entire herds or flocks of food-producing animals (e.g., for production purposes) would represent a use that poses a qualitatively higher risk to public health than the administration of such drugs to individual animals or targeted groups of animals (e.g., to prevent, control, or treat specific diseases)."

Also keep in mind another regulatory change Phillips mentioned now underway. It is one that's been covered by Beef Producer magazine before: all subtherapeutic use of medically important compounds must be done under supervision of a veterinarian.

These changes are happening now.