In May, the Food and Drug Administration issued a final rule on antimicrobial animal drug sales and distribution reporting. The rule requires the manufacturer of all newly approved animal drugs which contain an antimicrobial as an active ingredient to submit annual reports to the FDA detailing the amount of the ingredient in the product which has been sold or freely distributed for use in food-producing animals. The information is to include any distributor labeled product. This rule further modifies the requirements outlined in the Animal Drug User Fee Act of 2003, and the amendments to the act from 2008.
Antibiotics and Animals
Antibiotics have been used for decades in treating food-producing animals. In part they have been used for the same reasons they are used in humans, to treat infections. Over time, however, they began to be used increasingly to ensure good health rather than to treat disease and infections. This nontherapeutic use was increasingly used to help the livestock gain weight faster.
Overuse of Antibiotics
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes that some bacteria have become more resistant to multiple types of antibiotics, making infections caused by these bacteria more difficult to treat. While this is due in part to the overuse of antibiotics by human patients, it is also believed to be the result of overuse in livestock.
The antibiotic resistant bacteria can negatively affect consumers in a number of ways. It can lead to infections in humans that are more difficult to treat. It can also lead to foods that have been contaminated with the resistant bacteria, which is then eaten by people who subsequently develop antibiotic resistant infections.
The desired effect of the new rule is to limit the use of antibiotics in the food producing animals for nontherapeutic purposes to help limit the development of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System
The National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System, or NARMS, was established in 1996 in part to track changes in antibacterial resistance. It is a joint operation which works with local health departments, the CDC, the FDA, and the USDA. They system looks at how antimicrobial susceptibility of enteric bacteria which has been found in patients, meats, and food animals changes. The data collected by the agency directly impacts FDA decisions.
While it is certainly important and necessary to protect the health of food producing animals, it is also important that those animals not negatively impact the health of the consumers they are meant to sustain. The new ruling is in line with the general trend in physicians prescribing and pharmacists giving fewer antibiotics to human patients, and may help reduce the development and spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria.