Farmers and ranchers will for the first time need a prescription from a veterinarian before using antibiotics in farm animals, in hopes that more judicious use of the drugs will reduce the tens of thousands of human deaths that result each year from the drugs’ overuse.
The Food and Drug Administration announced the new rule Wednesday after trying for more than 35 years to stop farmers and ranchers from feeding antibiotics to cattle, pigs, chickens and other animals simply to help the animals grow larger. Using small amounts of antibiotics over long periods of time leads to the growth of bacteria that are resistant to the drugs’ effects, endangering humans who become infected but cannot be treated with routine antibiotic therapy.
This was a serious effort?
At least two million people are sickened and an estimated 99,000 die every year from hospital-acquired infections, the majority of which result from such resistant strains. It is unknown how many of these illnesses and deaths result from agricultural uses of antibiotics, but about 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the United States are used in animals.
Michael Taylor, the F.D.A.’s deputy commissioner for food, predicted that the new restrictions would save lives because farmers would have to convince a veterinarian that their animals were either sick or at risk of getting a specific illness. Just using the drugs for growth will be disallowed and, it is hoped, this will cut their use sharply. The new requirements will also make obtaining antibiotics more cumbersome and expensive.
“We’re confident that it will result in significant reductions in agricultural antibiotic use,” Mr. Taylor said. “That’s why we’re doing this…”
The F.D.A. believes that veterinarians will be far less likely to endorse indiscriminate drug uses. While doctors have the power to use drugs in ways not approved by the F.D.A., veterinarians are allowed to give a prescription for antibiotics in feed and water only if such uses are approved by the F.D.A…
RTFA for the details of this mostly voluntarily program. Hopefully, the restrictions imposed will inhibit animal protein-growers from devising ways and means around the letter and spirit of the law.
I’m the sort of cynic who ain’t going to be holding his breath.