FDA’s antibiotic guidance and VFDs continue a smooth transition
It’s fast approaching 2 years since the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) implemented its revised guidance for antibiotic use in food animals. At the center of the effort is the veterinary feed directive (VFD), which requires feed-grade antibiotics that are medically important to human health to be used only to treat, control or prevent specific disease under veterinary guidance. Similarly, it moved related water-based medications into the prescription column.
For the most part, the transition has been smooth, mostly due to the industry communication and preparation that occurred well before the January 1, 2017 implementation, noted Liz Wagstrom, chief veterinarian for the National Pork Producers Council.
“FDA worked with the industry to make sure that the details were workable before they kicked in,” she told Pig Health Today. “Then, the National Pork Board, American Association of Swine Veterinarians and others worked hard to have producers ready.
“We do still hear that some smaller producers may not have a veterinarian out every 6 months or have challenges with feed medications,” she added.
Very few hiccups
Recordkeeping has produced a few hiccups along the way, but Wagstrom said that with most veterinarians using electronic VFD services, the process is pretty cut and dried.
For one thing, it ensures accurate data entry as it won’t allow a veterinarian to enter a drug or dosage that’s not approved for the situation. She added that the electronic systems make storing records easy and also prevent feed mills from having to police a VFD order.
Key to producer and veterinarian acceptance of the rule is FDA’s recognition that allowing the use of antibiotics for prevention is essential for animal health and well-being. In turn, veterinarians have been attentive to ensuring that each VFD order is tied to preventing a specific disease with the correct drug and accurate duration, Wagstrom pointed out.
Similarly, following energetic debate at a World Animal Health Organization (OIE) meeting earlier this year, the OIE ruled to classify antibiotic use for disease prevention, control and treatment under “veterinary medical uses.”
“So, on the international stage, we’re clearly showing that prevention is essential to animal health,” she said. “For prevention, you have the herd history and a known pathogen, you can use a very targeted, and likely a smaller dose, of antibiotics in a group of pigs, which is good for helping reduce resistance.”
Identifying the impact
It’s still too early to determine the full impact of FDA’s guidance. Wagstrom and her association colleagues have been asking producers, veterinarians and FDA officials what they’ve been hearing and seeing. So far, she said, nothing significant in terms of herd health on the farm or on the potential impact on resistance has surfaced.
The National Animal Health Monitoring Survey conducted a survey in 2016, before FDA’s guidance, and will be doing a follow up in 2019/2020 to identify any changes. “We’re encouraging producers to comply with that survey,” Wagstrom said. “It will take one-half to 1 hour of their time, but it will help us demonstrate that the industry is doing the right thing.”
Meanwhile, Wagstrom pointed to the Pork Quality Assurance Plus program as keeping producers and veterinarians on track.
“It addresses how antibiotics should be used from a philosophical and stewardship as well as a legal standpoint,” she said. “Then have a valid veterinary-client-patient relationship, as well as a good relationship with your feed mill and suppliers.”
Long term, FDA is signaling that more action on medically important antibiotics will come under veterinary oversight, regardless of dosage or delivery method. “I think this (Guidance 209) was the first step of a multi-step process,” Wagstrom said.
Posted on February 27, 2019