Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Tragedy of the commons: Antibiotics in Agriculture

@marynmck broke the story right before Christmas that FDA had silently posted that they are backing-off of their long-held (1977) plan to limit overuse of agricultural antibiotics. Instead of formal bans and policy change the FDA now hopes to “focus its efforts for now on the potential for voluntary reform and the promotion of the judicious use of antimicrobials in the interest of public health.”

So here is the current US policy for protecting a critical and diminishing resource for public health:  Please Please Please don't use antibiotics!  Please?  How about if I'm nice? No? Pretty Please. Sugar on top?  Perhaps we should call this the "Don't let the Pigeon Drive the Bus Policy."  I guess it kinda worked in the book. Kinda.

So after burying the bad news on a Thursday before a major holiday weekend, the FDA posted some sort of half-good news right after the new year. You guys excited?  So what was the good news?  They will limit cephalosporins (woo woo) but with so many loopholes and restrictions that it won't matter much. Today, a NYT Editorial in frustration pointed out that FDA "will ban the injection of the antibiotics into chicken eggs and halt the practice of giving large, sustained doses to cattle and pigs. But it still allows widespread use in animals like rabbits and ducks, and veterinarians will still be able to use the drugs in ways not specifically approved by the FDA."

We've written about this issue many times before.  It's amazing that we continue to squander critical antibiotics in animal populations, while at the same time barely funding efforts to develop new antibiotics or new infection prevention strategies. The NYT stated today that "it’s time for the FDA to consider the public’s health as carefully as it considers the interests of intensive agriculture and pharmaceutical companies." Hear Hear.

Sources:

1) Maryn McKenna, Superbug Blog 12/23/2011
2) NYT Editorial "FDA Creeps Forward" 1/11/2012

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