Several recent news articles have referred to the “FDA’s report on antibiotic use in livestock”. What is interesting to me about this is that the FDA was required by the Animal Drug User Fee Act (ADUFA) to report “on the quantity of antimicrobial drugs sold or distributed for use in all food-producing animal species for all purposes, both therapeutic and non-therapeutic, and includes all dosage forms.” The report specifies the amounts of antibiotics sold by class (aminoglycosides, cephalosporins, penicillins, etc.), as reported by the manufacturers. That’s it. The FDA report indicates nothing about the following:
- how the antibiotics are being used;
- in which species the drugs are being used;
- whether the use is a responsible/judicious use or not;
- how many animals are being raised; and
- the disease incidence or prevalence in the herds/flocks;
The FDA itself recognizes the shortcomings of the report by stating, “meaningful trend analyses may not be possible until several years of comparable sales and distribution data are reported.” As much as we all would prefer more data to be available, it’s just not possible with the current systems that are in place.
Yet, with only 2 years’ worth of limited data, there are some who allege “misuse” and “daily dosing” of antibiotics in the livestock industries. I urge you to have a look for yourself and see what the data tells you. One fact that the report does show us is that sales of the antibiotics of critical importance in human medicine, such as the cephalosporins and aminoglycosides, have decreased significantly in 2010 compared to 2009. Another fact is that the total change in antimicrobials sold is only about 1% when 2010 and 2009 data is compared.
Some of the misinterpretations in the media may have resulted from results that were erroneously posted on October 28 by the FDA. The FDA issued corrected numbers on October 31, and my statements are based on the corrected and final information.
For another perspective, I encourage you to listen to my interview with Brownfield Ag News.
Regardless, the debate goes on, and the AVMA continues to work with the FDA to increase veterinary oversight of antimicrobials so that we can gather the missing pieces of information that cannot be found in this report due to a lack of infrastructure. It is logistically challenging, but our leadership is dedicated to the battle against antimicrobial resistance to protect public health, food safety, and animal health and welfare, all at the same time! So, kudos to the FDA for doing the best they can with the little bit of information that they have to give us, and kudos to our volunteers for stepping up and taking the first steps towards getting the data we need to make the best decisions possible.