FDA Reports on Antimicrobial Drug Use in Food-Producing Animals

By John M. Simpson.

On December 18, 2018, the Commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Scott Gottlieb, M.D., announced the issuance of the FDA’s 2017 Summary Report on Antimicrobials Sold or Distributed for Use in Food-Producing Animals.  As the Commissioner noted, the health issues posed by antimicrobial-resistant pathogens are a significant problem.  Antimicrobial resistance is “the ability of a microorganism (bacteria, virus, fungi, parasite) to resist the effects of a drug.”  Therefore, “[o]ptimizing how medically important antimicrobial drugs are used and limiting their use to only when necessary to treat, control or prevent disease will help to preserve the effectiveness of these drugs for fighting disease in both humans and animals.” 

The report details what the Commissioner described as the “great strides over the past year to support antimicrobial stewardship in animals” by the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine along with industry partners and veterinarians.  Among certain key observations, the report highlighted:

Domestic sales and distribution of medically important antimicrobials approved for use in foodproducing animals:

– decreased by 33% from 2016 through 2017.

– decreased by 43% from 2015 (the year of peak sales) through 2017.

– decreased by 28% from 2009 (the first year of reported sales) through 2017.

– Tetracyclines, which represent the largest volume of these domestic sales (3,535,701 kg in 2017), decreased by 40% from 2016 through 2017.

The report also outlined the data as to domestic sales and distribution of medically important antimicrobials approved for use in food-producing animals:

– Tetracyclines accounted for 64%, penicillins for 12%, macrolides for 8%, sulfas for 5%, aminoglycosides for 5%, lincosamides for 3%, and cephalosporins and fluoroquinolones each for less than 1%.

– An estimated 42% was intended for use in cattle, an estimated 36% intended for use in swine, an estimated 12% intended for use in turkeys, an estimated 5% intended for use in chickens, and an estimated 5% intended for use in other species/unknown.

– An estimated 80% of cephalosporins, 72% of sulfas, 48% of aminoglycocides, and 44% of tetracyclines were intended for use in cattle.  An estimated 84% of lincosamides and 40% of macrolides were intended for use in swine.  An estimated 61% of penicillins were intended for use in turkeys.