The VFD won’t be able to come from just any veterinarian. A veterinarian would only be able to issue a VFD for use in animals “under his or her supervision or oversight in the course of his or her professional practice, and in compliance with all applicable veterinary licensing and practice requirements.” Right now VFD’s have to be issued in the midst of a valid veterinary-client-patient relationship (VCPR) that’s spelled out by federal regulation. The new changes add some flexibility in that this relationship will be deemed appropriate by state and professional entities, such as the Board of Veterinary Examiners in South Dakota. This flexibility means that far-flung cattle enterprises may not need to be treated the same as an intensely managed hog operation, in regards to veterinary oversight. But it still means that a veterinarian needs to be involved – one that knows the operation and its needs well.
What won’t change:
- The ability to use feed-grade antibiotics to treat, control, or prevent bacterial diseases. The term “prevention” is used in the situation where there is a very high risk of illness if you don’t administer the antibiotic. However, producers will need to obtain a VFD for these products as explained above.
- How one uses and obtains non-“medically important” feed grade products. Examples of these include ionophores like Rumensin®, Bovatec®, most coccidiosis medications, and certain growth-promoting medications like bacitracin (BMD®). Since they’re not used very often if at all in human medicine, there will be no changes in their use.
- Uses of water and injectable antibiotics – yet. There are proposals out there that would move water medications to “prescription” status like many injectable antibiotics.
- Extra label uses of feed-grade medications. Any use of feed grade medications not in accordance with their label is illegal now, and it will remain so.
- The ability of current distributors and feed mills to supply these products. Yes, there will be more paperwork related to more VFD forms, but these new proposals do not limit these businesses in what they can carry or manufacture.
- The need for veterinarians to be involved in decisions about feed-grade antibiotics. There is no better source of information about the proper uses of these products in livestock populations than the herd veterinarian. A close relationship with a veterinarian means that producers may avoid wasting time and money on ineffective uses of these products. Better yet, it may result in practical advice on how to prevent illnesses that would necessitate the uses of these products.
Antibiotic resistance is a complex and sometimes contentious topic among animal and human health professionals. The complexity of the issue means that a “silver bullet” solution is not going to present itself any time soon. All of us involved in using these products—in animals and people alike—play a role in ensuring that they continue to work for the sake of our animals and our family members. Understanding these proposed changes and proactively deciding how they will work into your operation is a great first step that we can all take.
NOTE: Product trade names are used for purposes of illustration only and do not constitute an endorsement of those products.
Source: Russ Daly, DVM, DACVPM