April 15, 2017


 Cattle veterinarians asked to issue illegal VFDs

Posted March 29, 2017

Veterinary associations warned in March that cattle veterinarians were being pressured to issue illegal orders for medicated feeds.

The AVMA and American Associ­ation of Bovine Practitioners published a joint statement March 6 on the AVMA@Work blog warning that both organizations had received reports veterinarians had been pressured to issue veterinary feed directives for chlortetracycline-containing feeds in unapproved formulations or for unapproved indications.

Dr. K. Fred Gingrich II, AABP executive vice president, said that, in the prior two months, frustrated AABP members had told him about calls they received from feed mill distributors who requested that they sign such VFDs, creating conflicts between the federal regulations and their business relationships.

Chlortetracycline is among the antimicrobials that are no longer available over the counter or for growth promotion and other production indications because they are in drug classes shared with human medicine. The Food and Drug Administration told pharmaceutical companies in December 2013 that they would have three years to agree to change approvals for such drugs or risk regulatory action, and all affected companies complied.

The change involved replacing over-the-counter access with requirements for VFDs for feed-delivered drugs and prescriptions for water-delivered ones. VFDs are filled by feed mills. 

In the southeastern U.S. and other areas where anaplasmosis is endemic, chlortetracycline is administered to cattle to control the disease. Cattle owners and their herd nutritionists developed and administered custom feed mixes containing chlortetracycline during previous years, and Dr. Gingrich said that many of them may not know those custom formulations already were subject to different regulations, depending whether they were administered daily under supervision, known as “hand-fed,” or were “free choice” medicated feeds, which are placed in feeding or grazing areas and not intended to be consumed in one feeding.

The latter requires use of approved formulations, and custom formulations are prohibited, he said. Veterinarians have oversight over all chlortetracycline administration and are responsible for ensuring drugs are administered as directed.

Dr. Gingrich also noted that, despite previous uses of over-the-counter products, no feed-administered antimicrobials are approved to treat, control, or prevent pinkeye or foot rot. Those indications had been illegal before the drug approval changes took effect, but the uses are receiving more attention now that veterinarian oversight is required.

Dr. Gingrich described the improper requests as bumps in the road.

“I think that, in this first year of implementation of the VFD, it’s going to be a learning process for feed mills, feed distributors, veterinarians, and producers,” he said.  

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