Posted by: bridget | 4 March 2007

FDA Set to Approve Human Drug for Cattle

The FDA will likely approve the drug cefquinome for use in cattle.   The drug treats a disease in cattle that is similar to pneumonia and appears only because of the crowded conditions under which modern agriculture keeps its livestock.  The FDA, pursuant to Guidance 152, only has the authority to deny a human drug for animal use if there is substantial evidence that it would cause problems in treating food-borne illnesses in humans.

The Washington Post article does an excellent job of describing the dangers posed by prescribing human anti-microbial drugs for animal use.  The big issue is that microbes constantly mutate, so cattle will develop strains that are resistant to the drug.  When a human gets sick, there will not be any drugs on the market to treat that new, mutated strain.  Europe, which allows its use in animals, is already seeing cases of cefquinome-resistant bacteria; however, the FDA cannot account for this when approving a drug for animal use.

One major issue missed by the article is the preemptive treatment of cattle.  In modern agriculture, many farmers will give their livestock a full regimen of antibiotics and antiviral drugs before they get sick.  This accelerates the development of drug-resistant diseases.

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