US - In two years time, regulatory changes will come into effect that will cover 57 per cent of current antimicrobial sales for animals in the US.
Most medically important antimicrobials used in livestock today will be affected by impending changes to their use in animal health, according to Greg Cima, writing in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association (JAVMA)
Whereas only a small proportion of the types of antimicrobials important for human medicine and sold for use in farm animals, currently require a veterinarian’s signature for purchase, only a small volume will be available over the counter in two years time, he writes.
Citing a recent report from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), he reports that 97 per cent of the almost 20 million pounds of drugs used to combat infections in humans and in food-producing animals currently are available in the US without veterinary prescription.
In two years time, however, the great majority of the at volume, currently administered in feed or water, will also require veterinary oversight. This will apply to 94 per cent or 18.4 million pounds of the current volume.
The changes ahead stem from FDA's aim to reduce the public health threat of antimicrobial resistance by restricting livestock uses of antimicrobials that are in the same drug classes as those used in human medicine.
The agency has reached agreements with 26 pharmaceutical companies to meet a December 2016 deadline to eliminate production uses – for example, for growth promotion – of those drugs and to remove over-the-counter access to any antimicrobials that are important for human medicine and are administered to livestock through their feed or water.
Dr Craig Lewis, a veterinary medical officer in the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine, said his organisation is trying to minimise any negative effects on animal health.
FDA officials also want to gather more information on antimicrobial use and antimicrobial resistance on farms so that the effects of the changes can be monitored.
Dr Lewis added that more changes could follow.
Dr Joni Scheftel of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has said that the Association supports the changes the FDA is making, particularly regarding increased veterinarian oversight of antimicrobial use in food-producing animals.
She recognises the new veterinary feed directives represent a big change for veterinarians who work with livestock, adding that the AVMA, FDA and Department of Agriculture will provide education to veterinarians as the new regulations are finalised.
Whilst supporting these efforts to prevent the proliferation of antimicrobial resistance, she does not know whether overall use will decrease.
Current FDA data do not currently include figures that would show the volume of antimicrobials that are important for human medicine sold for livestock production and there are some other limitations on the data available.
The author adds that pharmaceutical companies distributed a further 12.6 million pounds of antimicrobials not considered important for human medicine, all of which are distributed for over-the-counter availability.
'Changes coming in antimicrobial use, availability' by Greg Cima was published in JAVMA on 1 January 2015.
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