American authorities ban antibiotic BAYTRIL for poultry

The Bayer Corporation is the third largest manufacturer of veterinary products in the world. Almost half of the European production of antibiotics land in cattle stalls - more than 10,000 metric tons a year. The result is an increased number of antibiotic-resistant bacteria and pathogens in animals - a high risk for human health. Through the food chain strains resistant bacteria such as salmonella can enter the human body and trigger untreatable infections. Diseases such as tuberculosis, which appeared to have been cured by scientists years ago, are spreading once again.

Now the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced plans to ban the use of two antibiotics used by poultry farmers. The removal would mark the first time the American government has pulled any drug to combat infections that have grown resistant to antibiotics. Public health organizations, including the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, have strongly advocated such a ban for years. But agriculture and pharmaceutical interests have successfully held them off until now.

Abbott Laboratories of North Chicago, Ill., maker of one of the drugs, will withdraw its antibiotic immediately, according to the FDA. But Bayer Corp. Animal Division, which dominates the market, said it will consider whether to request a hearing to contest the proposed ban.The antibiotics in question are in the class known as fluoroquinolones, which have been available for human use since 1986 and are commonly prescribed to treat serious gastrointestinal illness, including from the common campylobacter bacteria. The FDA action would not affect the availability of the drugs for humans.

The drugs were approved for chickens, turkeys and cattle in the mid-1990s, and since then the incidence of resistance to fluoroquinolones in people has increased dramatically. After years of testing and construction of an elaborate risk assessment, the FDA concluded earlier this year that the health of at least 5,000 Americans is affected each year by the use of these drugs in chickens.

These people eat animals that are carrying resistant campylobacter bacteria because the animals were treated with fluoroquinolones. If the bacteria make people sick and they seek treatment, fluoroquinolones will be far less effective than normal. This could be life-threatening to the elderly, to children and to people with depressed immune systems.
While the consequences of fluoroquinolone resistance may not be grave to most people, public health officials call it the tip of an iceberg of rising resistance to dozens of other life-saving antibiotics. Resistance develops when antibiotics are overused, both by doctors treating people and by farmers treating animals. An estimated 40 percent of the nation's antibiotic use is in livestock.

The FDA selected fluoroquinolones to study because they are so commonly used and because the agency was able to collect the necessary data to directly link the drugs' use in chickens with a specific problem in people. The FDA is reviewing the use of fluoroquinolones in cattle as part of a comprehensive examination of all agricultural antibiotic use.

Advocates of a more restrained use of antibiotics hailed the action. Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) said that the issue of antibiotic resistance has become increasingly important to scientists, regulators and the public. He said the Center for Veterinary Medicine, an arm of the FDA, has just been allocated $3 million to study the problem, the first appropriation of its kind. "This has never happened before, and it's quite exciting," said Fred Angulo, who follows antibiotic resistance for the CDC. "The agency recognizes there is a problem that has to be corrected, and consumers will be the beneficiaries."

"There was tremendous opposition to the use of fluoroquinolones when FDA first approved them for treating flocks of poultry, and I suppose you can say the chickens have now come home to roost," said Michael Jacobson, director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a consumer group. "This action will reduce the spread of bacteria that are not sensitive to a very powerful antibiotic, and that is good for public health."

In 1997, the World Health Organization recommended phasing out the use of antibiotics to promote the growth of livestock." Bayer recently spent over 50 million US$ to build new production facilities for Baytril in Germany and the US. The company claimed that Baytril is completely harmless in a letter to veterinarians: "Bayer has and always will play a leading role in defending fluoroquinolones".

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy from Minnesota/USA started an Action Alert. If you want to write an eMail to Bayer Corporation and urge them to withdraw Baytril please visit: (take a look at Action Alert).