Livestock News

FDA’s change in antibiotic distribution is on horizon


Antibiotic use in agriculture has long been a hot-button issue on Capitol Hill and in the public forum. As is often the case (like it or not), the government stepped in, and officials have been spending the past couple of years rewriting the rules on the use of antibiotics for growth promotion or feed efficiency in livestock. While the rules were finalized in October of last year, this past month the FDA posted its complete Veterinary Feed Directive rule on its website. The nuts and bolts? Beginning Jan. 1, 2017, the way a select number of antibiotics can be administered will change drastically. If you haven’t brushed up on the rules yet or if you’re not ready to implement them, you’re running out of time.

The new rule outlines the process for “authorizing use of VFD drugs (animal drugs intended for use in or on animal feed that require the supervision of a licensed veterinarian) and provides veterinarians in all states with a framework for authorizing the use of medically important antimicrobials in feed when needed for specific animal health purposes.” The labels on the drugs will not be allowed to mention growth promotion or feed efficiency in any way, no matter what veterinarians have previously authorized.

An order from a veterinarian allowing a producer to feed a VFD drug or combination drug is limited to six months. Jordan Dux, director of national affairs for Nebraska Farm Bureau, provided an example: “Tilmicosin has an expiration date of 45 days and a duration of use of 21 days. This means that when the VFD order is issued, the client (producer) has 45 days to obtain the VFD feed and complete the 21-day course of therapy. It’s unlawful to feed a VFD drug after the expiration date of the VFD order.” The Nebraska Farm Bureau notes that the new rule will not apply to antibiotics used by injection, tablet or water. Water soluble versions will require a prescription, but injectable versions are not affected.

Which antimicrobials are affected? Nebraska Farm Bureau lists:

  • Penicillins
  • Cephalosporins
  • Quinolones
  • Fluoroquinolones
  • Tetracyclines
  • Macrolides
  • Sulfas
  • Glycopeptides

Anchoring the FDA’s strategy is data collection. The FDA is collaborating with the USDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop a plan for collecting additional data on antibiotic use in food-producing animals and data on antibiotic resistance. The hope is assess the rate of adoption of the new rules and help determine the association between antibiotic use and resistance trends. The FDA also recently put out a notice to retail establishment that sell medically important antimicrobials for use in feed or water for food animals that the marketing status of these products will soon be changing.


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