WASHINGTON, April 10, 2015 – Usage of medically important antibiotics in food animals rose 3 percent from 2012 through 2013, the Food and Drug Administration says in its latest annual report on sales of the drugs.

The year-over-year increase meant that sales of the drugs rose 20 percent from 2009 to 2013, the agency said.

The FDA is working with pharmaceutical makers to reduce the usage of the drugs on farm as part of a broader government-wide strategy to curb the spread of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Drug manufacturers have voluntarily agreed to phase out sales of medically important antibiotics for growth promotion in food animals.

The report “reflects sales and distribution information from the year prior to the FDA’s announcement to implement its judicious use strategy,” the Animal Health Institute, which represents manufacturers, said in a statement.  

“AHI and its member companies are working hard with FDA, customers and other stakeholders to fully implement the judicious use policy within FDA’s timeframe of December, 2016. Full implementation will create significant and meaningful change in the way antibiotics are used in food animals, and we invite all stakeholders to assist in these efforts to successfully implement this new policy."

But Steve Roach, senior analyst for the advocacy group Keep Antibiotics Working, said the data show that “use of human antibiotics on the farm has continued to rise, including the use of cephalosporins, which FDA specially added new use restrictions to in 2012. This reaffirms just how timid FDA's approach to addressing the problem of antibiotic overuse really is, and suggests that it may have limited impact.”

The data can’t be used to pin down trends in the use of antibiotics solely for growth promotion. Because of confidentiality requirements, FDA doesn’t provide sales and distribution data for products labeled solely for production indications. That means that drugs labeled for either production indications only or for both production and therapeutic indications are combined in a single category.

In 2013, antibiotics used in human medicine accounted for 62 percent of all domestic sales of all antimicrobials in food animals. Tetracyclines accounted for 71 of the animal usage followed by penicillins at 9 percent and macrolides at 6 percent. Cephalosporins accounted for less than 1percent of sales.

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Antibiotics that aren't medically important, primarily ionophores, which are widely used in cattle production, accounted for 38 percent of total sales in 2013. Usage fell 2 percent from 2012 to 2013.
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