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Sunday, May 1, 2016

New FDA antibiotics 'initiative' poses challenges

Friday, April 27, 2012

Dr. Scott Hurd, D.V.M., Ph.D, acknowledges his title in Iowa State University's College of Veterinary Medicine, in Ames, is a long one.

Dr. Scott Hurd
However, he readily accepts the responsibilities accompanying that title -- assistant professor of veterinary diagnostic and production animal medicine.

Also, having served in several roles including former USDA Deputy Undersecretary of Agriculture for Food Safety, it's not surprising Hurd has been fielding his share of questions focusing on the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) latest announcement.

The FDA -- calling for a "voluntary initiative" limiting use of antibiotics for growth promoting or production purposes within the livestock industry -- is seeking "significant reductions" in the use of animal antibiotics.

The new policy requires all antimicrobial medicines approved for use in livestock and poultry product be limited to therapeutic purposes -- disease treatment, control and prevention -- under supervision of a licensed veterinarian through use of a veterinary directive.

FDA representatives said the initiative is intended to reduce human illnesses and deaths resulting from "hospital-acquired" infections resulting from human drug resistance to strains of some antibiotics used in livestock production.

Hurd, responding in a phone interview to the FDA's antibiotic withdrawal initiative, says he sees the move as having "a pretty big impact" within the livestock industry.

"While being downplayed by the FDA as a voluntary effort, what we are going to see is that producers will stop using the antibiotics and drug companies will stop labeling the antibiotics as 'growth promoting' antibiotics," he said.

"This will impact not only producers but, in instances, major packers who will not accept animals receiving the antibiotics," Hurd said. "I also see the time coming, and not too far down the road, for producers to be able to go to their local farm store and expect to buy feed that includes the antibiotics. These will be one of the first of the changes as I see it."

Hurd said his advice for producers is to do what many successful producers have already been doing, to continue to keep records of antibiotic usage in perfect order and keep good records of their livestock production management programs.

"The FDA initiative, in many ways, will have more impact than a regulation," Hurd said, adding that he anticipates few, if any, changes will be made by the FDA on its recent directive despite the future producer comment meetings.

As to the impact of the FDA changes on veterinary medicine, Hurd does not see it as a major one in that veterinarians will "continue to have the ability to treat livestock" with the antibiotics available.

Hurd shared further reaction to the FDA initiative in his blog, calling the initiative "the beginning of the end for growth promoting antibiotics" and suggesting blog readers not let the "genteel approach of my professional FDA colleagues fool you."

"The action is big! It will result in the end of all antibiotic uses that are critically important to humans as well as those not labeled for the treatment or prevention of a specific animal pathogen," Hurd wrote in his blog.

He added that "no published scientific risk assessment has shown a direct human health impact of on-farm anti-biotic use," but the concern is of farmers creating a "super bug."

This, combined with an anti-big agriculture sentiment of many consumer groups, he writes "has led the FDA to determine growth promotion use to be injudicious, i.e. not in their best judgment."

The blog -- http://scotthurd.blogspot.com/ -- continues to read that the word "injudicious represents an artful move by politicos (recall, I was one) and shifts the argument from science (risk management) to precautionary politics."

Hurd suggests this "will produce a much larger and more immediate, yet targeted effect, than legislation or specific regulations could have achieved."

Along with his role with the USDA, Hurd has also served as a director of the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Center for Risk Assessment and Hazard Identification in Foods of Animal Origin. He is also a member of the American Veterinary Medicine Association (AVMA) and Council on Biological and Therapeutic Agents (COBTA).

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack has said, that his agency will be "working closely" with the FDA as it finalizes its new plan.

Vilsack said this is being done "to ensure" the antibiotics livestock producers need to protect the health of their animals are available and that producers receive up-to-date "outreach materials" through Extension sources nationwide to educate producers about the changes and the "judicious" use of the antibiotics.

Vilsack added that this will enable producers to have the background necessary as they are called on by the FDA for comments at future public meetings on the issue throughout the county.

He said the USDA recognizes that producers will need to adjust their management practices in light of the changes and that some smaller-scale producers and those in remote areas may have difficulty accessing a veterinarian.

Vilsack emphasized that the USDA will continue to work with the FDA "to ensure flexibility" for producers and farmers while the antibiotic changes are phased in.

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