Antibiotics Are Man's Greatest Invention

FDA Should Expedite New Rules on Antibiotic Use in Food Animals

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released a draft policy to ensure that veterinarians oversee any use of animal antibiotics that are important for human medicine and the agency is seeking public comments on the proposal.

Veterinary supervision for these medications is crucial to the fight against antibiotic-resistant bacteria because the more antibiotics are used—in any setting—the less effective they become. There have been positive policy changes on this front in recent years. Since 2017, for example, veterinarians must oversee any use of antibiotics important to human health in animal feed or water. However, farmers can still buy certain animal antibiotics important to human medicine without a prescription, including those given to animals by injection.

The proposed guidance, part of FDA’s five-year plan to improve antibiotic use in animal agriculture, is an important step and would bring all remaining antibiotics under veterinary oversight. But as currently drafted, the new rules would not take effect for years. The agency should be able to finalize and implement this guidance on a much faster timeline, and Pew strongly urges FDA to act as soon as possible.

Those interested in encouraging the agency to expedite its work to combat antibiotic resistance by ensuring appropriate veterinary oversight can submit comments.

Karin Hoelzer, a veterinarian by training, leads The Pew Charitable Trusts’ work on antibiotic use in animal agriculture.