Some of the biggest issues facing our country today intersect at one unexpected point: animal health. Keeping animals healthy contributes positively to the economy, public health, and sustainability goals, making it a bipartisan topic. This year, Congress can take specific steps to support animal health and encourage more efficient livestock production, more sustainable farming practices, and reduced emissions from animals. 

The Animal Drug User Fee Act (ADUFA), which must be reauthorized by Congress by September 30, 2023, is designed to expedite the drug review process. The animal health industry and FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) have developed a five-year agreement that will improve ADUFA and foster innovation by addressing the development of new and more transparent metrics and holding the line on escalating costs. It provides a platform for industry and CVM to work together to ensure a steady supply of new and innovative therapies needed by farmers and ranchers, pet owners, and veterinarians to meet the many unmet medical needs of animals.

Farmers, ranchers, and veterinarians have long understood the connection between animal health, human health, environmental health, and economic growth. When animals are healthy, the food supply is stronger and safer. In 2020, despite the challenges of a pandemic, farmers and ranchers contributed nearly $199 billion to the U.S. economy by raising cattle, pigs, chickens, and other animals. Advanced medicines and diagnostic tools that identify, prevent, cure, and even eradicate disease in food animals help make the U.S. food supply among the world’s safest.

Animal medicines help farmers operate more sustainably and profitably. Healthy animals are simply more productive, since animals that struggle with disease require more resources, and may never produce as much as if they had never fallen ill. For example, a dairy cow that receives medication to prevent an infection by parasitic roundworms produces more milk, enabling the farmer to meet production needs with fewer animals. 

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Innovations in medicines, feed additives, diagnostics, and husbandry help producers responsibly manage the impact of livestock on land, water, and air. For example:

  • In 2010, producing a kilogram of U.S. eggs generated 70% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than in 1960. 
  • A study in Scotland, where ruminants are responsible for approximately 50% of GHG emissions, found that better treatment of key diseases in cows and sheep could create significant savings. For example, in beef cattle, the disease Neosporosis impacts birth rate, pushing GHG emissions higher. Researchers found better disease management could create emission savings of 4.5%. 
  • In ruminants, products under development work in the rumen to dispel methane before it is emitted into the atmosphere, thereby reducing their climate impacts. 

While innovation in animal health has clear benefits, more work needs to be done. One in five animals in the global food chain is lost to preventable disease. This is not just bad for the animals, it’s a waste of natural resources.

To reach public health, sustainability, and economic goals, we need more medicines to meet the many unmet medical needs in animal health. A key to realizing these benefits is an efficient regulatory process at FDA CVM that encourages innovation and enables the development of needed therapies. The ADUFA program directly supports the pre-approval regulatory processes at FDA CVM for review and approval of animal drugs.

The 118th Congress has the opportunity – and the responsibility – to ensure those tasked with keeping food-producing and companion animals healthy are provided full range of tools to address current and future needs. Congress should quickly act this year to support the reauthorization of ADUFA.

Ronald B. Phillips is senior vice president of policy at the Animal Health Institute.

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