Legislation would phase out some antimicrobials used subtherapeutically in livestock

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-Subtherapeutic use in livestock and poultry of several antimicrobials used also in human medicine would be banned under legislation proposed Feb. 27 by Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio). The bill would also prohibit the therapeutic use of fluoroquinolones in poultry.

The Preservation of Antibiotics for Human Treatment Act of 2002 (HR 3804) would phase out, over two years, eight classes of infection-fighting drugs commonly used to promote growth or prevent disease. The practice is suspected of contributing to antimicrobial resistance in humans.

"Mounting scientific evidence shows that the routine feeding of antibiotics to healthy farm animals, known as nontherapeutic use, promotes the development of antibiotic-resistant bacteria that can be communicated to people," said Brown, the senior Democrat on the Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee.

The bill provoked a strong reaction from the Coalition for Animal Health, which said Brown's bill "would devastate animal health." The coalition, whose members include the AVMA, AASV, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Turkey Federation, and Animal Health Institute, said the bill would handicap efforts of veterinarians, livestock, and poultry producers to keep animals healthy and create a safe food supply. The coalition expressed disappointment that the bill would override science-based processes established by Congress in the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.Drugs proposed to be prohibited for disease prevention and growth promotion uses by the bill are penicillins, tetracyclines, macrolides—including, but not limited to, erythromycin and tylosin—lincomycin, bacitracin, virginiamycin, aminoglycosides, and sulfonamides.

The targeted antimicrobials may still be used to treat sick animals. They can also continue to be used as growth promotants and to prevent disease if the drug manufacturers can demonstrate within two years that there is no harm to human health resulting from such use.

At press time, the bill had two co-sponsors—Reps. Louise McIntosh Slaughter (D-N.Y.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.)—and had been referred to the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) is expected to introduce a companion bill in the coming weeks.