December 22, 2016.
Today’s antibiotic sales report, as FDA states, has severe limitations in aiding the understanding of the use of antibiotics in food animals. That’s why we continue to support the USDA Antimicrobial Resistance Action Plan to collect useful data to provide information to help farmers and veterinarians to become even better users of antibiotics, and urge Congress to fund this initiative.
Notably, nearly three-quarters of the antibiotics sold for use in food animals are two compounds: Ionophores, which are not used in human medicine and cannot contribute to the burden of resistance in humans; and tetracyclines, which is an older compound that is not a “frontline” human use drug. Those compounds that are critically important to human medicine comprise less than 1 percent of the sales in food animals.
This data, as FDA points out, precedes implementation of the FDA Judicious Use Policy. When implemented in January 2017, that policy ensures that medically important antibiotics used in food animals will be used only to fight disease under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian.
This sales report is not in any way an indicator of public health risk. A far better public health indicator is the surveillance data in the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) which reported just weeks ago that trends continue to improve in both the overall prevalence of foodborne bacteria and in the resistance rates in those bacteria. Taken together, these FDA reports paint a picture that approved uses of antibiotics are helping to protect animal health while not endangering public health.