More than a year after the Food and Drug Administration released new guidelines on the judicious use of antibiotics in food animals, a University of Kentucky veterinarian says the guidelines are helping producers contribute to safe antibiotic use.
"Judicious use means using a drug appropriately and only when necessary," explains Michelle Arnold, extension veterinarian for the University of Kentucky. "The FDA's goal is to protect public health, slow the development of drug resistance and help reduce the number of infections in humans that are difficult to treat."
The FDA released the guidance in April, 2012, which was met with mixed reaction by some livestock groups that said the new regulations – which require that some antibiotic products are to be administered by veterinarians only – would have a negative effect on animal health and increase the cost of producing food while not improving public health.
Supporters of the policy believed it would be a good addition to herd health plans. Arnold agrees, noting that developing strategies for reducing antimicrobial resistance is critically important for protecting both public and animal health.
Collaboration among the public, public health, animal health and animal agriculture communities is needed to assure that public health is protected while also assuring that such strategies are economically feasible to the producer and that the health needs of animals are addressed."
The biggest change for producers, she says, would be having a veterinarian oversee the use of some antimicrobial products.
"Based on the available scientific evidence, the FDA believes the use of medically important antimicrobial drugs should involve the scientific and clinical training of a licensed veterinarian," Arnold says. "Veterinarians are uniquely qualified to determine which specific disease-causing organisms are likely to be present and to determine appropriately timed administration of medication relative to the disease."
Arnold emphasizes that although the convenience of buying feed-grade antimicrobials at a local farm supply will be changed by adoption of these guidelines, it is important that correct and medically sound advice accompany these purchases.
"Unfortunately, not all employees of stores that sell health supplies (including online pharmacies) are adequately trained to give correct advice and may be unfamiliar with the potential harm if label directions are not carefully followed," she says.
The FDA's guidance also included information for companies on how to voluntarily change their product labels to remove feed efficiency and growth promotion claims and rather emphasize disease prevention, control and treatment.