December 11, 2008


FDA revokes ban on animal antibiotics



Despite strong oppositions from livestock farmer organisations, the US Food and Drug Administration will allow the widespread use of a class of powerful antibiotics in food-producing animals, in a last-minute reversal since calling the practice a public health risk in July.


The agency's bid this summer to ban many uses of cephalosporin drugs in cows, swine, chickens and other animals received numerous objections from the industry. Agriculture groups and animal-drug makers, including Pfizer Inc., said the antibiotics are needed to prevent many infectious diseases in animals.


However, public-health officials and the American Medical Association are worried that excessive use of antibiotics -- including in animals -- can promote resistance and produce strains of bacteria that threaten human life. Cephalosporins treat respiratory diseases in cattle and swine but are also often given "off-label" for uses to poultry and other livestock for infectious diseases which are not approved by the FDA.


On July 3, the FDA announced a planned crackdown on off-label uses in animals, citing "the importance of cephalosporin drugs for treating disease in humans". On November 25, five days before the ban was to take effect, the FDA quietly shelved it with a notice in the Federal Register. The FDA's statement said the agency received many comments and needed more time to review them.


Keep Antibiotics Working, a group that promotes agriculture-production changes, denounced the FDA's reversal. According to the organization's chief, Steven Roach, the FDA was under a lot of pressure from companies and producers to end the ban.

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