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.”