While it won’t pass either a Republican-led Senate or House, Democratic senators Richard Blumenthal, Diane Feinstein, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Elizabeth Warren have proposed legislation, the Strengthening Antibiotic Oversight Act, that would do three important things:
- Requires the FDA to review the durations of use of approved indications of medically-important antibiotics labeled for use in animals, where the approved indication allows for more than 21 days of use.
- If the FDA finds that the use of the medically-important antibiotic for more than 21 days is not scientifically justified or if the disease can be prevented “through other reasonable means”, then the FDA must change the approved indication to allow the antibiotic to be used for only 21 days or less.
- There is also an important surveillance component, which tells the FDA “to identify amounts of antibiotics used in such feed, the purposes for the use of such antibiotics, and the species and production classes receiving such feed.”
The “other reasonable means” clause in point #2 is really crucial. This means that changes in animal husbandry than could prevent disease–and thus the use of antibiotics to treat that disease–also need to be considered. The surveillance component is really important too: we simply do not know enough about how and when medically-important antibiotics are being used in U.S. agriculture.
It’s good legislation, even if it won’t go anywhere in the current Congress.