Livestock Antimicrobial Use Once Again in the Headlines

March 12, 2014 07:40 AM

By: Sandy Stuttgen, DVM, University of Wisconsin Extension Ag Agent and Beef Team Member

Two decades ago the FDA CVM (Center for Veterinary Medicine) recognized antibiotic resistance was making it harder to properly treat livestock. Working with congress, the FDA-CVM, livestock organizations and veterinary organization got legislation passed (Animal Medicinal Drug Use Clarification Act) which allows veterinarians to properly dose animal drugs regardless of the dose prescribed on the label.

Referred to as "Extra Label Drug Use" (ELDU), this practice is only allowed with a valid veterinary client patient relationship (VCPR). Antimicrobial were allowed to be dispensed in feed and water. A veterinary feed directive (VFD) is a set of written instructions your veterinarian develops with your feed supplier to deliver medication into feed fed to livestock. Under no circumstances is ELDU of antimicrobials dispensed in feed or water allowed.

In April 2012, the FDA-CVM outlined the development of Veterinary Feed Directives (VFD) which provides a mechanism used by the FDA to approve an antibiotic for use in livestock feed to treat, prevent, or control a specific disease causing bacteria in a targeted group of affected animals or a group of animals at a high risk of developing a disease caused by a specific bacteria.

The idea was not new. Veterinary Feed Directives had been successfully used in swine operations. – See more at: "Understanding the FDA’s December 11, 2013 announcement to remove ‘improve growth, gain, and efficiency’ use of feed grade antibiotics" by Dee Griffin, UNL-Great Plains Veterinary Educational Center, Clay Center, NE. As a prescription, the VFD directs the use of the medication by the client for the client’s livestock. A valid VCPR is required in order for the VFD to be written and under no circumstances is ELDU allowed.

On December 11, 2013 the FDA-CVM directed pharmaceutical companies that have antibiotics with "production use" labeling (improved growth, gain, or efficiency) to voluntarily take these uses off their products’ labels. Because extra-label use of feed grade antibiotics is illegal, these uses will no longer be legal as well. – See more at: Using Feed- Grade Antibiotics for Livestock: Changes are Coming by Russ Daly, DVM, DACVPM, South Dakota State Extension Veterinarian.

Pharmaceutical companies now have two years to apply label indications clearly stating the therapeutic use of the drug for specific animal diseases. These "medically important" products will shift from over-the-counter to "Veterinary Feed Directive" (VFD) classification – possibly with new label indications for treatment, control, or prevention.

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