US pharmaceutical firms agree to antibiotic labelling change

01st April 2014 - Fine Cut

A group of 25 pharmaceutical companies in the US has voluntarily agreed they will no longer label antibiotics used to treat infections in humans as suitable for promoting growth on farms.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the businesses will phase out the use of the medicine in animals that are processed for meat by ceasing to label it as acceptable for agricultural use or revising information on antibiotics.

One firm has not agreed to change its labelling on drugs used to treat human infection, while 25 will withdraw them from animal use entirely or ensure they can only be used with a prescription from a vet.

Experts believe the move will help to reduce levels of antibiotic-resistant disease in humans, which have been rising.

The FDA explained it was the threat to human health that led to the move, which is expected to see the use of antibiotics to promote growth phased out of beef, pork and chicken production in the US.

An array of antibiotics are available for animal use over the counter to increase the size of livestock and maintain health.

It is not clear what contribution antibiotics in meat has had on the rise in antibiotic-resistant disease, but the FDA hopes the voluntary agreement will help to curb the rate of growth.

However, there has been criticism from some groups that have been lobbying for action to block the use of antibiotics in animals, saying it does not go far enough, as farmers will not be required to cease using the medication.

The companies that have pledged to alter their labelling account for 99.6 per cent of the supply of antibiotics for use in animals, according to authorities.

A new partnership between the FDA and the European Medicines Agency (EMA) may also improve international pharmaceutical labelling, as the two organisations have announced plans to work more closely together on issues relating to medicine safety.

Under the increased pharmacovigilance collaboration agreement, the FDA and the EMA will hold regular meetings together to focus on specific issues and exchange information.

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