FDA Addresses Antimicrobial Use for Livestock

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Wednesday is implementing a plan to help phase out the use of medically important antimicrobials in food animals for food production purposes, such as to enhance growth or improve feed efficiency. The plan would also phase in veterinary oversight of the remaining appropriate therapeutic uses of such drugs.

Certain antimicrobials have historically been used in the feed or drinking water of cattle, poultry, hogs, and other food animals for production purposes such as using less food to gain weight. Some of these antimicrobials are important drugs used to treat human infection, prompting concerns about the contribution of this practice to increasing the ability of bacteria and other microbes to resist the effects of a drug. Once antimicrobial resistance occurs, a drug may no longer be as effective in treating various illnesses or infections.

Because antimicrobial drug use in both humans and animals can contribute to the development of antimicrobial resistance, it is important to use these drugs only when medically necessary. The plan announced today focuses on those antimicrobial drugs that are considered medically important (i.e., are important for treating human infection) and which are approved for use in feed and water of food animals.

In a final guidance issued today, the FDA lays out a road map for animal pharmaceutical companies to voluntarily revise the FDA-approved use conditions on the labels of these products to remove production indications. The plan also calls for changing the current over-the-counter (OTC) status to bring the remaining appropriate therapeutic uses under veterinary oversight. Once a manufacturer voluntarily makes these changes, its medically important antimicrobial drugs can no longer be used for production purposes, and their use to treat, control, or prevent disease in animals will require veterinary oversight.

The FDA is asking animal pharmaceutical companies to notify the agency of their intent to sign on to the strategy within the next three months. These companies would then have a three-year transition process.

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