On Sept. 7, the U.S. Government Accountability Office reported that agencies have made “limited progress” in addressing antibiotic use in animals.
It was a tepid endorsement, placing even greater pressure on agencies like the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to track antibiotic-resistance issues and look for alternatives to current antibiotic-use practices.
Indeed, agencies are trying to find the right balance in addressing public-health concerns and also having products available for animal-health needs, William Flynn, deputy director for science policy at the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Veterinary Medicine, told those attending the American Association of Bovine Practitioners meeting in St. Louis.
Flynn assured the veterinarians in attendance that the focus is not on banning drugs in food-producing animals. “Our objective is to ensure these products are used as judiciously as possible,” he said.
In the future, that is likely to mean:
- Medically important antimicrobial drugs will be limited to uses considered necessary for assuring animal health. That means using the drugs for therapeutic purposes rather than production purposes (e.g. growth promotion or feed efficiency). Indeed, the FDA states in the report, “The Judicious Use of Medically Important Antimicrobial Drugs in Food-Producing Animals,” that it believes the use of medically important antimicrobial drugs in food-producing animals for production purposes represents an “injudicious use of these important drugs.”
- Such drugs will be limited to uses that include veterinary oversight or consultation. Already, the FDA is working to transition certain medicated feeds from over-the-counter status to veterinary-feed-directive status.
Veterinary involvement is valuable in making sure these drugs are used as judiciously as possible, Flynn said.