FDA’s annual summary report on antimicrobial sales for use in food animals shows a small year-over-year increase in 2018, but the total remains well below pre-VFD levels. According to the report’s authors, U.S. sales during 2018 increased by 9% over those in 2017. It is important to note though, that sales of antimicrobial products for use in food animals dropped dramatically during 2017, the first full year of implementation for FDA’s Guidance for Industry 213 and veterinary feed directive (VFD) rules. Those actions removed performance claims from labels of medically important antibiotics and required veterinary oversight for sales and use of most medicated feeds in livestock production.
A year ago, FDA’s summary report showed sales and distribution of all medically important antimicrobials used in food animals declined 33% between 2016 and 2017, ad 41% since 2015, which was the peak year for sales and distribution of those products. The 2017 total also was 28% lower than the first year FDA reported sales in 2009.
While sales data do not necessarily reflect actual antimicrobial use, sales volume observed over time is a valuable indicator of market changes related to antimicrobial drug products intended for food-producing animals. However, when evaluating the progress of ongoing efforts to support judicious use of antimicrobials, it is important to take into account additional information sources including actual use data, animal demographics, animal health data, and data on resistance.
Of the 2018 domestic sales and distribution of medically important antimicrobials approved for use in food-producing animals:
- Tetracyclines accounted for 66%
- Penicillins for 12%
- Macrolides for 8%
- Sulfas for 5%
- Aminoglycosides for 5%
- Lincosamides for 2%
- Cephalosporins for 1%
- Fluoroquinolones for less than 1%
According to the report, sales of tetracyclines increased by 12% from 2017 through 2018, with about 42% of those sales intended for use in cattle, 39% intended for use in swine, 11% intended for use in turkeys and 4% intended for use in chickens. For other antibiotic classes, FDA estimates 81% of cephalosporins, 67% of sulfas and 47% of aminoglycocides were intended for use in cattle.
An estimated 83% of lincosamides and 41% of macrolides were intended for use in swine while about 63% of penicillins were intended for use in turkeys.
FDA notes that sales data do not necessarily reflect actual antimicrobial use, but sales volume observed over time is a valuable indicator of market changes. Evaluation of progress toward more judicious use of antimicrobials needs to include actual use data, animal demographics, animal health data and data on resistance.
When analyzing the report, readers should consider:
- Sales and distribution information does not represent actual use of the products. For example, veterinarians and animal producers may purchase drugs, but never actually administer them to animals, or they may administer the drugs in later years.
- Before making a direct comparison between the quantity of antimicrobial drugs sold for use in animals versus humans, consider that there are many more food animals than humans in the United States, and large animals such as cattle require larger dosages than humans.
- Direct comparisons of species-specific sales estimates can be misleading because of differences in population size, weight, lifespan, and drug metabolism of each species.
- Direct comparisons between the sales volume of different drug classes also can be misleading because not all drug classes are approved for use in all species, not all drug potencies are the same and not all of the drug classes can be used interchangeably to treat the same conditions.
For more on antimicrobial stewardship, regulations and usage trends, see these articles from BovineVetOnline: