Institute Says FDA's Proposed Antibiotic Guidance is Flawed

Cornucopia Institute says FDA's animal antibiotic changes would disadvantage small farmers

Published on: Feb 6, 2014

Organic policy group the Cornucopia Institute isn't sure the Food and Drug Administration's three-year plan to phase out "medically important" antibiotics for animal use is the best option.

FDA's plan is two-fold approach for limiting animal use of medically important antibiotics: a three-year non-therapeutic use phase-out, and a restriction that requires direct veterinary oversight of therapeutic use.

Cornucopia this week said the plan, which the FDA announced in December, has a few issues. First, the question of compliance among pharmaceutical companies, and second, the question of farmers' ability to use the drugs when they are really needed.

FLAWED POLICY? Cornucopia Institute says FDAs animal antibiotic changes would disadvantage small farmers
FLAWED POLICY? Cornucopia Institute says FDA's animal antibiotic changes would disadvantage small farmers

Company compliance
Cornucopia charges that some companies which profit from antibiotic sales will simply ignore the FDA's changes.

"The outstanding question is, will this billion-dollar industry make voluntary changes in order to protect the efficacy of important antibiotics used to treat human illnesses, or will pharmaceutical companies resort to a public relations shell game, in order to protect profits in which no material changes really take place?" questioned Rebecca Thistlethwaite, a farm policy analyst with The Cornucopia Institute.

Cornucopia cites a Wall Street Journal interview with Zoetis CEO Juan Ramon Alaix, in which he answers in response to a question regarding the FDA policy:

"We have been partnering with the FDA to ensure anti-infectives in feed are properly used. And we agree with the approach of the FDA to eliminate the growth-promotion indication of certain antibiotics which are relevant for humans in feed. But this will not have a significant impact on our revenues."

Thistlewaite charges that Alaix's reply "implies that Zoetis expects minimal changes in the sales of their animal drugs and that this new FDA guidance will have little effect on the usage of antibiotics in food animals or their sales."

Related: Washington Antibiotic Resistance Scientist Cautious about FDA Plan

Instead, she suggests, FDA should address "crowded conditions that spread drug-resistant pathogens throughout animal herds and flocks." Thistlewaite adds that the changes, which attempt to limit antibiotics for feed efficiency or growth promotion, would simply shift the use of the drugs from growth promotion to disease prevention.