New bill limits antibiotics in agriculture

Senators introduce bill to require FDA to withdraw its approval of certain antibiotics if shown to threaten human health.

Senators Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) and Susan Collins (R., Maine) introduced the Prevention of Antibiotic Resistance Act to combat what they see as “the overuse of medically-important antibiotics in agriculture.” The bill is cosponsored by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D., N.Y.) and Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.).

The bill would require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to withdraw its approval of medically-important antibiotics used for disease prevention or control that are at high risk of abuse, unless the producer of the drug can demonstrate that its use in agriculture does not pose a risk to human health. Antibiotics that meet the standard for prevention and control uses would be issued a revised label that supports prudent antibiotic use.

Sponsors said the bill addresses a gap in the guidelines issued by FDA in December 2013, which called on the industry to eliminate the use of antibiotics for the purpose of making animals gain weight.

FDA estimates that 107 antibiotics used for therapeutic purposes, including disease prevention or control, do not have a defined duration of therapy or are labeled for continuous use. An analysis by the Pew Charitable Trusts estimates that 83 antibiotics used for disease prevention or control have an overlapping dose with a production use. “These antibiotics are at high risk of being inappropriately administered, which could pose a risk to human health,” a statement from Feinstein said.

“While FDA took an important step to reduce antibiotic overuse in agriculture, we need to do more. Our bill would ensure that antibiotics approved to treat disease are not used inappropriately. I am pleased that farmers and veterinarians are working to adopt FDA rules and I hope they will collaborate on this important piece of legislation,” said Feinstein.

“Antibiotic-resistant bacteria remains a dangerous risk to human health and efforts to ensure that antibiotics are used appropriately in food animals to protect public health remain important,” said Collins. “Our bill would build on efforts by the FDA to reduce antibiotic overuse in food animals, through the voluntary policy to eliminate approved growth-promoting uses and improving veterinary oversight, by helping to ensure the appropriate use of antibiotics for preventing and controlling disease in food animal production.”

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