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article imageOp-Ed: Veterinary Feed Directive final rule is issued by FDA

By Karen Graham     Jun 3, 2015 in Food
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Tuesday published its final rule for its Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD). This now brings the use of antibiotics in livestock under veterinary supervision.
The primary basis for the change in the rule is to bring the use on antibiotics used on food-producing animals under the control of licensed veterinarians, something that has been needed for years.
Reining in the use of antimicrobials on livestock grown for food is something advocates have been lobbying for because of the upsurge in the number of antibiotic-resistant superbugs.
“That means using a product for a specifically identified disease, at the right dose, and for the period of time stipulated on the product label,” wrote Michael R. Taylor, FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, in an agency blog post.
Superbugs have adapted to drugs used to treat humans
Antibiotic-resistant superbugs have now created a global health crisis. Even after the FDA's 2013 "tepid request" that livestock producers reduce their use of antibiotics for growth enhancement, it was reported by the agency there had actually been an increase, as reported in Digital Journal in April.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) statistics indicates that at least two million people every year are infected by antibiotic-resistant bacteria, and of this number, 23,000 lose their lives. And this number is just the data for the United States.
Another Digital Journal story, also published in April, reported on statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO) that shows nearly three-quarters of the world's countries have no plans to slow down on antibiotic use. The article mentions we are heading into a post-antibiotic era, where the antibiotics in use today will no longer be useful to us. That time is fast approaching.
The FDA rule outlines the process for authorizing the use of VFD drugs
The FDA rule not only outlines the process, but provides a framework for veterinarians to use in authorizing the use of medically important antibiotics in feeds when needed for "specific animal health purposes."
In other words, the VFD has been amended so that veterinarians will have to prescribe an antibiotic instead of someone buying it as an over-the-counter (OTC) medication. The VFD final rule continues to require veterinarians to issue all VFDs within the context of a veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) and specifies the key elements that define a VCPR. In other words, they will have to know the client, visit the farm and know the animal's health records.
The VFD also states, “The VFD final rule takes another important step by facilitating veterinary oversight in a way that allows for the flexibility needed to accommodate the diversity of circumstances that veterinarians encounter, while ensuring such oversight is conducted in accordance with nationally consistent principles.” Or you could say that there is a lot of room to figure out why an antibiotic is needed when all the producer wants is to enhance growth.
The VFD actually came about in three phases, dating back to 1996. It is now a conglomeration of directives, and amendments added to the original. But finally, after much amending, the published "Final Rule" dated June 2, 2015 will go into effect 120 days after its publication. But keep in mind the changes will not occur within 120 days.
The FDA will be lucky if anything changes by 2016 if then. The government's wheels turn very slowly, and quite often, it is an uphill track. First of all, it is going to cost over one million dollars just to get the final rule up and running, and then it will take the agency forever to get all 50 states to get the kinks worked out. So we will see how this rule works.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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