Washington, DC – A national public health initiative is being launched today to fight one of America’s most pressing medical threats: antibiotic resistance. A coalition of concerned health, consumer, agricultural, environmental and other advocacy groups announced the initiative, “Keep Antibiotics Working: The Campaign to End Antibiotic Overuse,” () at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. The campaign is dedicated to eliminating a major cause of antibiotic resistance – the inappropriate use of antibiotics in farm animals.

“Recent concerns about bioterrorism underscore the importance of having powerful, effective antibiotics available to treat human diseases,” said David Wallinga, M.D., Senior Scientist with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. “Unfortunately, overuse of antibiotics in both agriculture and medicine is creating infections that resist treatment with antibiotics.”

A number of antibiotics used in agriculture are identical or very similar to antibiotics used in human medical treatment. These include antibiotics routinely fed to healthy animals as well as ones given to entire flocks of poultry even if only a few birds are sick.

An important element of the campaign is to persuade Bayer, the manufacturer of Cipro, to comply with a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed ban on the use of a similar antibiotic, Baytrilâ, in sick poultry. FDA scientists determined that such use contributes to increased antibiotic resistance in bacteria that cause serious food poisoning. The campaign unveiled a website urging Americans to write Bayer Chief Executive Officer Helge Wehmeier and demand that Bayer comply with the FDA’s proposed ban.

“Throughout the country, physicians are reporting difficulty treating potentially life-threatening infections caused by bacteria that have become resistant to antibiotics,” said Tamar Barlam, MD, Director, Project on Antibiotic Resistance, Center for Science in the Public Interest, based in Washington, DC. “Everyone is at risk from infections resistant to antibiotics.”

Although even the most careful use of antibiotics can result in the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria, widespread and inappropriate use of these precious drugs greatly accelerates the process. The more often bacteria are exposed to antibiotics, the more likely they are to develop resistance. A major source of antibiotic overuse is livestock producers unnecessarily feeding antibiotics to healthy farm animals to promote growth and compensate for unsanitary conditions found in industrial animal agriculture.

“An estimated 70% of all antimicrobials in the U.S. are fed to healthy pigs, poultry, and beef cattle,” said Margaret Mellon, Ph.D., J.D., Food and Environmental Program Director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“Conventionally raised animals are often given feed that's laced with antibiotics to promote growth and prevent disease,” said Rob Hurlbut, Chief Operating Officer of Niman Ranch, based in Oakland, California, which raises meat without the routine use of antibiotics. “But if you raise livestock naturally and with care, you don’t need to feed them antibiotics that can create resistant strains of bacteria in the animals that are passed on to humans.”

“This public health campaign will educate Americans about the importance of keeping antibiotics working for people who need them,” said Karen Florini, Senior Attorney for Environmental Defense, based in New York City. “Because of this growing health crisis, the American Medical Association now opposes the use of antibiotics in healthy farm animals. We will work with Congress, the Food and Drug Administration, and companies that produce and sell meat to phase out inappropriate antibiotic use in agriculture.”

The Keep Antibiotics Working coalition includes: Physicians for Social Responsibility, Center for Science in the Public Interest, and Humane Society of the United States, based in Washington, DC; Union of Concerned Scientists, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts; Environmental Defense, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Global Resource Action Center for the Environment, based in New York City; Sierra Club, based in San Francisco; National Catholic Rural Life Conference, based in Des Moines, Iowa; Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, based in Minneapolis; and Food Animal Concerns Trust, based in Chicago.


Letter to Helge H. Wehmeier, President and CEO of Bayer Corporation asking him to comply with the proposed FDA ban on Baytril (R)

I am very concerned that Bayer has refused to comply with a proposed Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ban on the use of Bayer's antibiotic, Baytril(R), in treating chickens and turkeys.

Baytril(R) is a fluoroquinolone antibiotic. Fluoroquinolones are considered one of the most valuable classes of antibiotic drugs available to physicians because of their effectiveness against a broad range of disease-causing bacteria and relative lack of side effects. They are the antibiotics most often used to treat severe cases of food poisoning caused by bacteria.

The FDA determined that using Baytril(R) in poultry farming contributes to the development of antibiotic resistance in bacteria that infect humans. Bayer's decision to put profits over public health is putting us all at risk.

In the interest of public health, the Bayer Corporation should immediately withdraw Baytril(R) from the market and drop its appeal of the proposed FDA ban on its use in poultry.

For more information about Keep Antibiotics Working, contact Sean Crowley at 202-478-6128 (w), 202-329-5214 (c) or or log onto .