April 11, 2012

#FDA: #CAFO needs scrips for antibiotics

Well, it certainly didn't take long for the Food and Drug Administration to follow its marching orders from a federal district judge and rule that farmers and ranchers would need prescriptions from veterinarians to give their animals antibiotics.

Now, the $64,000 question: Will this do much to cut the use of antibiotics, especially in concentrated animal feeding operations, to a point to where animals use significantly less than the current 80 percent of antibiotics in America?

My prediction?

This may well bring the issue of overuse of animal antibiotics some additional attention, but it probably won't put much more than a modest crimp in their use. I wouldn't be surprised if official, legal use isn't cut a fair amount, but that a black market of sorts, either through unscrupulous vets here in the U.S., or else from smuggling from abroad, doesn't fill much of the void.

And, as to that, how tightly is the FDA, which in the case of we humans, relies on Big Pharma to police itself on the testing side, and has about zero authority over doctors on the prescribing side, going to police large-animal vets? How much will farm-state Senators push to cut its funds for any such policing?

Even without that, here's about how toothless the FDA can be:
Initially, the F.D.A. is asking drug makers to voluntarily change their labels to require a prescription; federal officials said that drug makers had largely agreed to the change. If some fail to impose the restrictions, the agency will consider a more forceful ban, Mr. Taylor said. 

The reason for the reliance on voluntary efforts is that the F.D.A.’s process for revoking approved drug uses is lengthy and cumbersome, officials said. The last time the F.D.A. banned an agricultural use of a medically important antibiotic against the wishes of its maker, legal appeals took five years. In this case, hundreds of drugs are involved, each with myriad approved uses in various animals. 
In short, your healthy steak will be promoting antibacterial resistance for, oh, 20 years or so from now.

Of course, with the FDA making its ruling, this could possibly open the door to private lawsuits against CAFOs. THAT might change the score.

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