The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is banning the use of certain antibiotics in animals raised as food, fearing that overuse of the drugs may contribute to heightened resistance in bacteria that cause human illness.
"FDA is taking this action to preserve the effectiveness of cephalosporin drugs for treating disease in humans. Prohibiting these uses is intended to reduce the risk of cephalosporin resistance in certain bacterial pathogens," the agency said.
The order prohibits certain uses of the cephalosporin class of antimicrobial drugs in cattle, swine, chickens and turkeys effective April 5, 2012.
"We believe this is an imperative step in preserving the effectiveness of this class of important antimicrobials that takes into account the need to protect the health of both humans and animals," said Michael R. Taylor, Deputy Commissioner for Foods.
Cephalosporins are commonly used in humans to treat pneumonia as well as to treat skin and soft tissue infections. In addition, they are used in the treatment of pelvic inflammatory disease, diabetic foot infections, and urinary tract infections. If cephalosporins are not effective in treating these diseases, doctors may have to use drugs that are not as effective or that have greater side effects, the FDA noted,
In its order, FDA is prohibiting what are called “extralabel” or unapproved uses of cephalosporins in cattle, swine, chickens and turkeys, the so-called major species of food-producing animals. Specifically, the prohibited uses include:
- using cephalosporin drugs at unapproved dose levels, frequencies, durations, or routes of administration;
- using cephalosporin drugs in cattle, swine, chickens or turkeys that are not approved for use in that species (e.g., cephalosporin drugs intended for humans or companion animals);
- using cephalosporin drugs for disease prevention.
In 2008, FDA issued and then revoked an order that prohibited extralabel uses of cephalosporins in food-producing animals with no exceptions. Today’s announcement responds to public comment and includes the following exceptions, which protect public health while considering animal health needs:
- The order does not limit the use of cephapirin, an older cephalosporin drug that is not believed by FDA to contribute significantly to antimicrobial resistance.
- Veterinarians will still be able to use or prescribe cephalosporins for limited extra-label use in cattle, swine, chickens or turkeys as long as they follow the dose, frequency, duration, and route of administration that is on the label.
- Veterinarians may also use or prescribe cephalosporins for extralabel uses in minor species of food-producing animals such as ducks or rabbits.
The new order of prohibition has a comment period that will begin on Jan. 6, 2012 and close on March 6, 2012. To comment on the order of prohibition, visit www.regulations.gov and enter FDA-2008-N-0326 in the keyword box. Following the comment period, the FDA will consider the comments prior to the order of prohibition going into effect on April 5, 2012.