A coalition of US health, food and environmental groups has written to US senators calling for urgent action to improve reporting of antibiotic use in livestock.
The coalition letter, signed by 35 groups that represent more than a million supporters, wrote to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, which is currently considering whether to reauthorise the Animal Drug User Fee Act (ADUFA).
The ADUFA enables the US Food and Drug Administration to collect fees from the animal health industry, helping it dramatically reduce its review time for the approval of new animal drugs. However, the coalition said the law should only be reauthorised if it included new provisions to improve the FDA’s ability to track and report the use of antibiotics in livestock.
Describing antibiotic resistance as an “expensive and critical public threat”, the letter said: “As the CDC and others note, strong science – more than 147 studies to date – links antibiotic use in animals to antibiotic resistance and risks to human health. Leading medical, public health, and scientific organisations have called for an end to the unnecessary use of antibiotics in animals that are not sick – a key contributor to the rising tide of antibiotic resistance – and for better tracking and reporting of data on antibiotic sales and use.
“The Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) response to the threat has been to propose recommendations (Guidance for Industry #213) that encourage industry to voluntarily phase out the marketing of antibiotics to speed up animal growth and to also voluntarily phase out over-the-counter marketing of antibiotics. This guidance does not require action and has no mechanism to track the adoption of these recommendations or to evaluate their effects on antibiotic use and resistance, nor does it address the routine feeding of antibiotics to food animals to keep them from getting sick in overcrowded, unsanitary and high-stress conditions.”
The coalition pointed out that, in 2008, Congress introduced a requirement for drug manufacturers to report antimicrobial sales to the FDA and directed the FDA to release a summary of this data to the public. It urged the Committee to further improve the system by requiring feed manufacturers to report antibiotic sales in medicated feed to the FDA, and direct the FDA to publish public summaries of this data.
It added that the information should be broken down by species and indicate the purpose of the use, for example whether it was for growth promotion, disease control or treatment.
The letter also called on the Committee to require the FSA to put forward a plan for tracking and reporting industry response to its draft guidance on antibiotic use in food-producing animals, which asks drug manufacturers to voluntarily phase out sales of antibiotics for growth promotion and over-the-counter sales of antibiotics.
A blog from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy – one of the groups in the coalition – claimed that data on how much of the 30 million pounds of antibiotics used in food animals each year was being sold for use in animal feed was “critical for targeting efforts to reduce the overuse of critical human medicines for what are unnecessary uses of convenience, like growth promotion, in animals”.
It added that the Senate would have a hearing on the ADUFA later this week, with two industry representatives and a veterinarian giving evidence. “Hopefully, the lack of a public health voice won’t also be reflected in the content of the bill,” it said.