On Wednesday (2 Jan), the FDA issued an order prohibiting certain uses of cephalosporins, a class of antimicrobial drug which is commonly used by doctors to treat pneumonia as well as skin and urinary tract infections, from April 5, 2012.
The order does not ban the use of the drug for livestock and poultry altogether, but prohibits “extralabel” use of cephalosporins. This includes using the drug at unapproved does levels, frequencies or durations, using cephalosporin drugs that are intended for human or pet use and using cephalosporin drugs for disease prevention.
However, veterinarians will still be able to prescribe cephalosporins for limited use in livestock and poultry. The order does not limit the use of cephapirin, an older cephalosporin drug which the FDA claimed does not contribute significantly to antimicrobial resistance.
The FDA said that it hoped the ban would reduce the risk of cephalosporin resistance to certain bacterial pathogens, which would make the drug less effective for treating disease in humans. This is particularly important because cephalosporin is one of the few antibiotics approved for pediatric use.
Michael R. Taylor, deputy commissioner for Foods, said: “We believe this is an imperative step in preserving the effectiveness of this class of important antimicrobials that takes into account the need to protect the health of both humans and animals.”
This is not the first time that the FDA has announced an intention to restrict the use of the drug. In 2008 it issued a similar order but revoked it prior to implementation. The FDA said that it had received “substantial” public comment, which it had taken into account in the development of the new order.
The announcement comes weeks after the FDA came under fire for scrapping a proposal to ban the use of two types of antibiotics used as growth promoters in livestock and poultry feed. The proposal was initially made in 1977 but had been stalled due to industry protest, calls for research and changes in administration.
The FDA withdrew it from proposed regulation in the last week of December, stating that it instead planned to “focus its efforts for now on the potential for voluntary reform and the promotion of the judicious use of antimicrobials in the interest of public health.”