FDA Moves to Reduce Use of Drugs

AVMA says the new FDA proposed rule is much better than the one proposed in 2008.

Published on: Jan 6, 2012

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued an order that prohibits certain uses of the cephalosporin class of antimicrobial drugs in cattle, swine, chickens and turkeys effective April 5, 2012. FDA says it is taking this action to preserve the effectiveness of these drugs for treating disease in humans. Cephalosporins are commonly used in humans to treat pneumonia as well as to treat skin and soft tissue infections. Alternative drugs are not as effective or have greater side effects.  

Antibiotic injections into unhatched chicken eggs are among uses prohibited by the order. FDA spokeswoman Siobhan DeLancey says the antimicrobial drugs can only be used to treat animal illnesses - under specific conditions, -  and can’t be used for disease prevention. The ruling leaves untouched an older type of cephalosporin called cephapirin that FDA says is unlikely to fuel antibiotic resistance.

American Veterinary Medical Association official René Carlson is calling for caution in placing restrictions on antibiotic use in food animals. Carlson points out that to restrict certain uses of antibiotics without careful consideration of the risks and benefits to both humans and animals removes a very valuable tool in the veterinarian’s medical bag for preventing and minimizing animal disease and suffering while also ensuring a safe and wholesome food supply.

Dr. Christine Hoang, assistant director of scientific activities at the American Veterinary Medical Association, says the new rule is a vast improvement over the one proposed in 2008. That rules was pulled by FDA following public hearings. Hoang says they thought the original order was too broad and unnecessarily prohibited uses that were not likely to cause problems for human health.

Consumer advocates support the FDA move, however, they say the move is long overdue and deals with only one small part of a much larger public health issue tied to the overuse of antibiotics in animals. In addition, they want the use of antibiotics in animal feed also curtailed.  The National Pork Producers Council says the narrowly focused ban makes better sense. NPPC chief veterinarian, Dr. Liz Wagstrom, says - we do believe our pigs will not suffer endlessly because of it because disease-treatment will be permitted.

Tom Super, vice president of communications for the National Chicken Council in Washington, warns the new restrictions may - take medical decisions to treat animals out of the hands of veterinarians. At the same time, Kristina Butts, executive director of legislative affairs at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, says there is no conclusive scientific evidence that ‘judicious’ use of antibiotics by the beef industry leads to drug resistance in humans.