Perspective from Herbert L. DuPont, MD
December 14, 2015
2 min read

FDA: Antibiotic sales increase for food-producing livestock

Perspective from Herbert L. DuPont, MD
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Sales and distribution of medically important antimicrobials for food-producing animals in the United States increased 23% from 2009 through 2014, according to a recent FDA report.

Last year, sales increased 3% alone despite the FDA’s request for pharmaceutical companies to voluntarily remove FDA-approved indications for antibiotic use in food-producing animals on drug labels by December 2016. The agency also requested that pharmaceutical companies discontinue over-the-counter sales of these drugs in order to phase out the overuse of antimicrobial drugs in livestock and reduce antimicrobial resistance in animals and humans.


Figure 1. The FDA reported an increase in sales and distribution of medically important antimicrobials for food-producing animals such as cattle.

“While it is widely recognized that use of antibiotics in both human and animal settings contributes to resistance, it is not yet fully understood how use in animal agriculture relates to resistance in humans,” Megan Bensette, MPH, an FDA representative, told Infectious Disease News. “Resistant bacteria can transfer to humans from raw or undercooked meat, and consumers should always follow good food safety practices, including properly cleaning, separating, cooking and chilling their food to prevent the spread of foodborne illness.”

According to the report, tetracycline antibiotics represented the largest volume of sales (70%), increasing 25% from 2009 to 2014 with 6.6 million kg sold in 2014. Despite an increase in sales, the FDA reported a decrease in the number of actively marketed tetracycline products (decreased from 41 to 37) and unique animal sponsors of tetracycline products (decreased from 13 to 8).

Lincosamide antibiotics showed the greatest growth in sales, increasing 150% over the 5-year duration. Other medically important antimicrobials purchased for food-producing animals included penicillins (9%), macrolides (7%), sulfonamides (5%), aminoglycosides (3%) and fluoroquinolones (< 1%).

While animal drug sponsors are required to report sales and distribution of antimicrobials, they are not obligated to report the reasons for use, Bensette said.

“Sales and distribution information only reflect the total quantity of antimicrobial drug product that enters the market and do not represent how much or in what way these drugs are ultimately used,” she said. “For example, drug products entering the market may not necessarily be distributed all the way to the farm; veterinarians and animal producers may purchase drugs in anticipation of using them but never actually administer them to animals, or they may administer them in later years.”

Data in the report either reflect the use of both production and therapeutic indications, which accounted for 72% of sales, or therapeutic indications alone, which accounted for 28% of sales.

“The FDA is working with federal, academic and industry partners to obtain more information about how, when, and why animal producers and veterinarians use antimicrobial classes that are medically important in human medicine,” Bensette said. – by Stephanie Viguers

Disclosure: Bensette reports no relevant financial disclosures.