Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY) — the only microbiologist in Congress and a longtime advocate of reining in the use of antibiotics in agriculture — is again calling on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to do more to combat the growing problem of antibiotic resistance.

The congresswoman released a statement Tuesday after the FDA announced a new internal task force to support the development of new antibacterial drugs, which the agency considers “a critical public health care goal and a priority” because new drugs are not being developed fast enough to outpace the loss of effectiveness among older drugs.

Slaughter said that while she thinks the task force is “an important step,” she believes the initiative falls short by not focusing on the “need to prevent the emergence of antibiotic-resistant superbugs by preserving antibiotics for human health.”

“The overuse of antibiotics in livestock production continues to be overlooked by the FDA,” said Slaughter. “By failing to address the root cause of antibiotic resistance, the FDA is ensuring that any innovation will be short-lived in the face of an evolving threat to public health. I have introduced legislation that accomplishes this goal and I will continue to fight for its passage in the House.”

Slaughter’s bill, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA), has more than 100 cosponsors in the House, but has not gained the traction needed to advance in Congress. The legislation would phase in a ban on medically important antibiotics from being used on healthy food-producing animals, while containing to allow their use on the treatment of sick animals.

The FDA said its new task force is made up of 19 scientists and clinicians from the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER). The group is planning to work with those in academia, industry, professional societies, patient advocacy groups and government agencies to help spur antibacterial drug development.

“By establishing this task force, FDA can help make real progress and change the paradigm,” said Rachel Sherman, M.D., associate director for Medical Policy in CDER, director of CDER’s Office of Medical Policy and co-chair of the task force. “Our hope is that this effort will result in important new breakthroughs in the field of antibacterial drug development and help in the fight against antibiotic resistance.”

Nowhere in the announcement does FDA mention agriculture as a contributor to antibiotic resistance, but the agency emphasizes that the problem has been brewing for decades.

“Research and development for new antibacterial drugs has been in decline in recent decades, and the number of new FDA-approved antibacterial drugs has been falling steadily since the 1980s,” explains FDA. “During this time, the persistent and sometimes indiscriminate use of existing antibacterial drugs worldwide has resulted in a decrease in the effectiveness of these drugs. This phenomenon, known as antibacterial drug resistance or antibiotic resistance, has become a serious issue of global concern.”

  • Pat

    Lord, I hope old Louise will be defeated and retired in November. Pretty good chance since redistricting put her in front of some real voters for once in her career. Not only is she the “only microbiologist in Congress”, she’s also the oldest one at over 80. Sadly she hasn’t been any better as a congresswoman than she ever was as a microbiologist. She must have studied under Louis Pasteur, for cripes sakes. She’s no more a competent microbiologist than Bill Frist was a competent MD (remember him diagnosing Terry Shiavo via video?) Time for some new blood in congress. Someone who has a clue and who isn’t sold out to antifarm special interest groups like HSUS. Someone who isn’t relentlessly muttering away about non-issues when we have serious economic issues to deal with. Goodbye Louise. Don’t let the door bat you in the butt on the way out. Wouldn’t want you to break a hip so you can’t shuffle on out of our memory.

  • Joanie

    “Pat” — Real Nasty post.
    I’ll take WISDOM over special interest Corporate Yes-men in Congress any day.
    And I hope you enjoy your antibiotic-laced meats — and that you will never require treatments that depend on antibiotic’s viability….

  • Michael Bulger

    Louise Slaughter’s efforts have been supported by major medical organizations. A few examples of the hundreds of organizations that have signed on reads like a Who’s Who of professional medicine, health, and science: the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and the list goes on and on and on…
    That Congress hasn’t taken action on this is a testament to the power of the animal drug lobby. The science behind PAMTA has been established for decades and no credible human health organization from the World Health Organization to the North Carolina Pediatric Society denies that the overuse of subtherapeutic antibiotics in livestock contributes to antibiotic-resistant disease.
    List of endorsers: