Sales, distribution of medically important antimicrobials remain down for food animals

Annual sales and distribution by volume of medically important antimicrobials for food-producing animals remain down since the substantial decrease in 2017, according to the latest data.

On Dec. 12, the Food and Drug Administration published the 2021 Summary Report on Antimicrobials Sold or Distributed for Use in Food-Producing Animals. The report covers both the antimicrobials that the FDA considers to be important in human medicine as well as those that the agency does not.

The estimated volume of domestic sales and distribution of medically important antimicrobial drugs for use in chickens decreased by 69% between 2016 and 2021

The FDA aims to slow the development of antimicrobial resistance. In 2017, the agency worked with drug companies to voluntarily transition medically important antimicrobial drugs for use in the feed or water of food animals from being available over the counter to requiring veterinary oversight and to remove approvals for production uses, such as growth promotion.

The new report indicates that the volume of domestic sales and distribution, by weight, of medically important antimicrobial drugs approved for use in food-producing animals decreased by less than 1% between 2020 and 2021. Compared with 2015, the peak year for sales and distribution, sales and distribution in 2021 were down 38%.

In 2021, the total sales and distribution volume for medically important antimicrobials was about 13 million pounds. An estimated 42% of the volume was estimated to be sold or distributed for use in swine, 41% for use in cattle, 11% for use in turkeys, and 3% for use in chickens, with the remaining 3% intended for use in other species or unknown.

A version of this article appears in the February 2023 print issue of JAVMA.