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July/August 2010
Policy and Advocacy
Hearing Highlights Need to Curb Antibiotic Use on the Farm

Eliminating the non-judicious use of antibiotics in cattle, pigs, poultry, and aquaculture will help protect patients and the general public against antibiotic-resistant infections. During a Congressional hearing last month, IDSA member James R. Johnson, MD, FIDSA, and several other witnesses urged lawmakers to take this important step to improve the nation’s public health and extend the utility of existing antibiotics.

At the July 14 hearing, Dr. Johnson told lawmakers an extensive body of scientific evidence demonstrates that antibiotic use in food animals contributes to the spread of resistant bacteria to humans and leads to drug-resistant infections. IDSA’s written testimony cited science-based studies and reports from the past 40 years supporting this position, including studies supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the National Academies of Science.

Dr. Johnson also noted IDSA’s support of the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment  Act (PAMTA)—which would essentially phase out the use of important antibiotics for growth promotion, feed efficiency, and routine disease prevention in animal agriculture—and the Strategies to Address Antimicrobial Resistance (STAAR) Act. Held by the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, the hearing was the final in a series of three focusing on drug resistance and antibiotic use and development.

Other witnesses included Joshua Sharfstein, MD, principal deputy commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Ali S. Khan, MD, MPH, assistant surgeon general and acting deputy director of the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Disease at CDC. Both spoke of the need for a change in U.S. policy concerning the use of antibiotics on the farm.

In June, FDA issued draft guidance recommending that medically important antimicrobial drugs be limited in food-producing animals to uses that are necessary for animal health and that veterinary oversight of antibiotic uses be required. (For more information, see FDA’s press release.) In IDSA’s testimony, Dr. Johnson called the guidance an important first step but also highlighted ways Congress and FDA and could make the policy more effective. IDSA will submit formal comments in response to the draft guidance as well.

Testimonies from the hearing witnesses are available online, in addition to video of the hearing.
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