Good news/Bad news: FDA release on antibiotic sales

In December, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration released new data on the sales of antibiotics important to human medicine in livestock production. The good news: sales have declined. The bad news: the amount of antibiotics going to livestock is still alarmingly high.

Read more:

Livestock Antibiotic Sales See Big Drop. but Remain High: Natural Resources Defence Council

A great first step to protect antibiotics for the future, Washington Post Editorial Board

FDA reports major drop in antibiotics for food animals, Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy

We must do more to stop the misuse of our lifesaving drugs on animals that are not sick. 


From bad to worse

A new estimate suggests that antibiotic-resistant infections caused more than 150,000 deaths in the United States in 2010. That’s seven times the Centers for Disease Control’s conservative estimate, and would mean that antibiotic resistance is one of the top five causes of death in the U.S.

1000 Letters Delivered to Gov. Hogan

MDKAW Letter Drop Off

Yesterday, we delivered more than 1000 letters from Marylanders and a letter from local, state, and national organizations asking Governor Hogan to pass stronger regulations for antibiotics used in animal agriculture.

Emily Scarr from Maryland PIRG and Dr. Pat McLaine from the Maryland Nurses Association did a great job! And many thanks to everyone who braved the heat and humidity from Fair Farms Maryland, Maryland Votes for Animals, Maryland Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, Clean Water Action, in addition to Maryland PIRG and Maryland Nurses Association.

Here’s an article in the Southern Maryland Online about the event. And another one from the Cumberland Times-News. And another one from the Center for Infectious Disease Research Policy. And another one from the Annapolis Patch.

Here’s the video of the event from Maryland PIRG’s Facebook page.


Press Statement: Local, State, and National Groups call on Gov. Hogan to Strengthen Antibiotics Regulations

As public comment period ends, more than 1,000 say Hogan needs to do more to protect public health

Emily Scarr, Maryland PIRG Director 859-221-4213
Kyanna Cadwallader, Maryland PIRG Campaign Organizer 386-972-2838

Annapolis – The Maryland Campaign to Keep Antibiotics Working delivered a letter from public health, labor, and environmental organizations and more than 1,000 public comments to Governor Hogan asking him to revise and strengthen long-overdue draft regulations to the 2017 Keep Antibiotics Effective Act.

The letter was signed by more than a dozen groups including Maryland Sierra Club, Maryland Nurses Association, SEIU 1199 United Health Care Workers, the Society of Infectious Disease Pharmacists, Waterkeepers Chesapeake, Maryland Votes for Animals, Natural Resources Defense Council, Maryland PIRG, and Maryland Clean Water Action. In the letter the groups called for two specific improvements of the regulations, saying, “We face and urgent global antibiotic resistance crisis, driven in part by widespread overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture.”

Public health advocates warn that the proposed regulations fail to curb the overuse of antibiotics in animal agriculture and need to be fixed in order to protect Marylanders from antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

“Antibiotics are our last defense against life threatening infections,” said Dr. Pat McLaine, a registered nurse and member of the Maryland Nurses Association. “We need the Hogan Administration to do its due diligence in implementing this law to save our precious antibiotics for times when they are needed most.”

In 2017, the Maryland General Assembly passed the Keep Antibiotics Effective Act to curb the overuse of antibiotics in livestock by eliminating routine use of antibiotics in animals that aren’t sick. The bill became law without a signature from Governor Hogan. After more than a year, the Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) finally released draft regulations.

The public comment period on the draft regulations ends today, and the regulations could be finalized by Governor Hogan and the Maryland Department of Agriculture as soon as September 18th.

“We must act now to protect these life saving drugs for future generations,” said Maryland PIRG Director Emily Scarr, “Governor Hogan should strengthen the Department of Agriculture’s proposed regulations to ensure antibiotics are reserved for when they are needed most: for sickness and surgery.”

Before antibiotics, infections were the leading cause of death in America. Now, ending the routine use of antibiotics in agriculture has been identified by the World Health Organization, American Academy of Pediatrics, and other leading health groups as a key strategy to fight the growing crisis of antibiotic resistance. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates the number of antibiotic resistant infections in the country at approximately 2 million cases per year. Of those, 23,000 people will die as a result of the resistant infection. The annual cost in the United States of such infections exceeds $55 billion per year.

In the United States, 70% of antibiotics are sold for use on farms, not to treat sick animals but rather to compensate for a poor diet and cramped, unhygienic living conditions. This daily use of antibiotics accelerates the development of drug-resistant bacteria which can travel off of farms and into our communities through human-to-animal contact, contaminated food and through environmental factors like water run-off, dirt and airborne dust.

“Combating antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a national public health priority, and healthcare professionals work tirelessly to minimize inappropriate antibiotic use for patients,” said Emily L. Heil, PharmD, an assistant professor of pharmacy practice and science at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy. “However, human stewardship efforts can help only so much because the vast majority of antibiotic usage occurs in food-producing animals. Strong regulations to carry out the Keep Antibiotics Effective Act will make Maryland a leader for other states in ensuring that antibiotics are used appropriately in agriculture.”

We got the law. Now we need strong regulations.

Credit: Scott Brundage

In 2017, we were thrilled to watch the Maryland General Assembly pass the Keep Antibiotics Effective Act to prohibit the overuse of human antibiotics in animal agriculture.

More than a year after the bill became law, the Hogan Administration finally released draft regulations to implement the law, and unfortunately the regulations are so weak that the overuse of human antibiotics on Maryland farms will likely continue.

The Keep Antibiotics Effective Act was designed to be stronger than the U.S. Food and Drug Administrations loophole-ridden policy. But we have ended up back where we started, with the Hogan Administration wanting to allowed continued, routine use of antibiotics on animals that aren’t sick.

The public has an opportunity to share comments with the Administration and demand stronger regulations that actually protect the effectiveness of our antibiotics. Comments are due September 4, 2018.

You can go through one of our participating organizations’ action: Take Action with Fair Farms


Victory in the Senate and House!

The House of Delegates passed the Keep Antibiotics Effective Act of 2017 by a vote of 139-1.

The Senate passed it by a vote of 35-12.

The bill restricts the regular use of antibiotics on animal agriculture, which is a huge step forward for protecting antibiotics.

Unfortunately, the data collection section was weakened to the point that it no longer requires any meaningful data collection.

The bills now need to clear the other chambers and then head to the Governor’s desk.

Almost done!!

Older antibiotics and newborns

Kern County is in the heart of agriculture in California. A  news report from CNN coming out of this county begins with this heartbreaking story:

Neonatologist Gurvir Khurana had only read about it in textbooks. Seeing it in real life has been a shock: baby after baby born severely anemic, lungs filled with fluid, bodies covered with rashes.

Some only lived minutes; others died within days or weeks.

The cause: congenital syphilis.

We have rising rates of STDs that we use older antibiotics like penicillins and tetracyclines to treat. We are using these older antibiotics to treat conditions that are increasingly causing concern – that are killing newborn babies.

These older antibiotics are used in animals, and they are still important for human medicine. We need these older antibiotics to remain effective, too.

It turns out, the sales of these older antibiotics in animals can rival or completely overshadow the sales in humans.

In 2011, penicillin sales in humans totaled 3,219,677 lbs and in animals totaled 1,940,427 pounds. Now, sales of pencillins in animals have increased to 2,065,001 lbs.

In 2011, tetracycline sales in humans totaled 250,957 pounds, and in animals totaled 12,439,744 lbs of tetracycline.

These numbers are bad news if we want to make sure these antibiotics keep working. We need to rein in the unnecessary uses, and make sure we’re only using antibiotics to treat sick people and sick animals.