Are the FDA Rules enough? No.

Credit: Scott Brundage

The Keep Antibiotics Effective Act closes an important loophole that the FDA left open in its recently finalized rules. These rules phased out uses of antibiotics to make animals grow fatter. But it still allowed antibiotics to be used to prevent disease.

Preventing disease sounds like a good thing. And it is. That’s why we wash our hands, take vitamins, vaccinate our kids.

We prevent disease to avoid using antibiotics. We don’t take antibiotics to prevent disease.

But this is what many factory farms in Maryland do. They will feed medically important antibiotics to animals for “disease prevention.” This term is short hand for feeding routine, low doses of antibiotics to animals that are not sick to compensate for the crowded, stressful conditions they live in or poor diets.


Why is this a problem?

Both growth promotion and disease prevention uses are routine and low dose. Many times, disease prevention doses are the same as, overlap with, or are very similar to growth promotion doses.

Even by banning growth promotion uses, FDA is still allowing dangerous low dose, routine use of antibiotics to continue under the guise of preventing disease.

This exact problem is what the Keep Antibiotics Effective Act addresses. It closes this loophole in the FDA rules and stops the routine, low dose use of antibiotics on animals that are not sick.


Is it ever ok to use antibiotics in animals?

The Keep Antibiotics Effective Act of 2017 allows antibiotics to be used to treat sick animals and to control disease outbreaks. Why only these uses?


WHO Abx infographic

Experts agree that these are the appropriate ways to use antibiotics. The World Health Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and many other scientific and medical experts.

Antibiotics should not be used routinely on animals that are not sick.

Health Professionals Applaud Introduction of Keep Antibiotics Effective Act

Bill would Curb Overuse of Antibiotics in Animal Agriculture

ANNAPOLIS – Maryland legislators have introduced new legislation to restrict the use of human antibiotics in animal agriculture. The bills (SB422 and HB602) were introduced by: Senator Paul Pinsky; Senator Shirley Nathan-Pulliam R.N.; Delegate Shane Robinson; and Delegate Clarence Lam, M.D. and are supported by dozens of groups including: public health professional associations and advocates, environmental and animal rights groups, labor unions, business owners, and farmers.

Hearings for the bills will be on Tuesday, February 14th at 1:00 in the Senate Education, Health and  Environmental Affairs Committee and Wednesday, February 15th at 1:00 in the House Environment and Transportation Committee.

Health professionals use antibiotics to treat everything from simple infections like strep throat, to more serious and life-threatening illnesses like pneumonia and MRSA. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that every year in the U.S.:

  • At least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics;
  • At least 23,000 people die from antibiotic-resistant bacteria;
  • We lose at least $55-70 billion a year due to excess hospital costs and lost worker productivity.

Any use of antibiotics causes antibiotic-resistant bacteria to develop. In the United States, up to 70 percent of human use antibiotics are sold for use on farms. These antibiotics are not used to treat sick animals, but are often put in the everyday feed of animals that are not sick for routine prophylaxis.

The Who’s Who of public health groups have cautioned against using antibiotics in this manner – including the World Health Organization, American Medical Association, American Public Health Association, the Infectious Disease Society of America, and American Academy of Family Physicians.

In 2016, the Natural Resources Defense Council commissioned a poll showing broad support for the bill statewide and across party lines and geography. Across Maryland, 68 percent favor state legislation that would restrict the regular use of medically important antibiotics in industrial agriculture and reserve them for use only when animals are sick.

Read more about the bill

“Antibiotic resistance threatens the routine use of many medical procedures we now take for granted,” said Dr. Pat McLaine, a registered nurse and member of the Maryland Nurses Association.  “If we don’t act quickly, we will lose the ability to treat infections, conduct surgery and treat illnesses like cancer.”

“By working directly with the animals, farmers, farm workers and their families will be the first to become infected with resistant bacteria produced by this dangerous low-dose strategy for disease prevention,” said Dr. Sara Via, a University of Maryland, College Park Professor in the Entomology Department and University of Maryland Extension. “From there, the resistant bacteria will move into rural communities. Livestock producers should consider the health of their families when using low doses of antibiotics on their entire flocks.”

“Combating antibiotic-resistant bacteria is a national security priority, and an area where healthcare professionals are working tirelessly to minimize inappropriate antibiotic use for patients that don’t need them” said Dr. Emily L. Heil, Assistant Professor at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy. “However, with the vast majority of antibiotic consumption actually occurring in food producing animals, human stewardship efforts can only help so much.”

The Maryland Campaign to Keep Antibiotics Working: 1199 SEIU, Alliance of Nurses for a Healthy Environment, Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility, Fair Farms Maryland, Future Harvest Chesapeake Alliance for Sustainable Agriculture, Interfaith Partners for the Chesapeake, Maryland Environmental Health Network, Maryland Nurses Association, Maryland PIRG, Maryland Public Health Association, Maryland State Conference NAACP, Maryland Votes For Animals, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Nurse Practitioner Association of Maryland, Real Food for Kids – Montgomery, Sierra Club Maryland, University of Maryland, School of Medicine – Center for Integrative Medicine, Woman’s Democratic Club of Montgomery County

Introducing the Keep Antibiotics Effective Act of 2017

Great news!

The Keep Antibiotics Effective Act of 2017 sponsored by Sen. Pinsky and Sen. Nathan-Pulliam (and co-sponsored by 19 Senators) has been introduced.

Check here for updates on SB 422 as it progresses through the legislature. Since it was just introduced, the text is not yet available, but should be soon.

Stay tuned, the House crossfile from Del. Shane Robinson should be introduced soon too!