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Industry Rep Questions the Resources Devoted to Antibiotic Resistance Research, Prevention

When it comes to fighting antibiotic resistance, Richard Carnevale of the Animal Health Institute, which represents the veterinary pharmaceutical industry, wonders, “Are we putting more resources into this than need be?”

AHI’s Vice President of Regulatory, Scientific and International Affairs had not intended to offer public comment Wednesday during the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System (NARMS) Scientific Meeting, but he changed his mind because he felt the need to address criticisms leveled at the Food and Drug Administration’s Guidance for Industry #213, which aims to ban the use of antibiotics to promote growth in food animals.

“If we want to phase out growth promotion and move these products to veterinary control, this is how it’s going to happen – with industry’s cooperation,” Carnevale said. “FDA will not be able to do this on their own, regardless of how many regulations or guidelines or legislation.”

Public health advocates have argued that the guidance won’t be effective because antibiotics will be used at the same levels, but under the label of disease prevention rather than growth promotion.

Carnevale says that this “simply is not true. If one takes the time to review the currently approved medically important antibiotics that are on the FDA list for GFI #213 action, you will see that the doses are quite different in virtually all cases. There is not the same dose or dose regimen being used for growth promotion and disease prevention.”

Once growth promotion comes off the labels, veterinarians will only be allowed to use those dose levels for prevention, he added.

“This process will work and it will be effective,” Carnevale said.

He ended his comments by saying that although he considered all the work presented at the Scientific Meeting “amazing” and that AHI has always supported NARMS, he wondered if the resources being dedicated to antibiotic resistance are out of proportion to the problem.

He cited the 2011 NARMS Executive Report released Monday which found that 85 percent of non-typhoidal Salmonella collected from humans had no resistance to any of the antibiotics tested. Everyone needs to do their part in address that 15 percent with resistance, but animal antibiotic use is not the main contributor to the broader issue of resistance.

“I hear an awful lot of hand-wringing and claims of crisis, when I’m not sure there is a crisis,” Carnevale said. “Is there a concern? Yes. Can we do more? Yes. But let’s put the problem in perspective.”

In concluding the meeting shortly after Carnevale’s comments, NARMS Director Patrick McDermott said it was not his intention to “use the vantage of the last speaker to rebut anything that’s been said.”

One of the many challenges NARMS faces in dealing with such a complex issue is cooperation and good communication between all the stakeholders — agriculture, industry, the public health sector and “really everybody,” McDermott said.

“I do share that sentiment that we are really each other’s stakeholders in this. We’re all sharing the same food supply, we all share the same desire for a safe and wholesome food supply and a situation in which antibiotics are preserved and they’re effective for use in humans and animals.”

A good metaphor for antibiotics is that they are a natural resource that is not replenishable forever, so we shouldn’t treat them as such, he said.

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