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.”