Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Congress’s only microbiologist, said late today that she plans shortly to reintroduce PAMTA, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, a timely move given the collapsing antibiotic market (see this morning’s post) and continuing reports of resistance moving off farms (as in this post).
PAMTA would direct the FDA to re-examine its approvals of veterinary antibiotics that are close analogs of ones used in humans, because they can stimulate the development of resistant organisms. When those organisms move off the farm, as research shows they do, they then cause illnesses that cannot be treated by the functionally identical human drugs.
The Union of Concerned Scientists said in 2008 about an earlier version of the bill:
The FDA is aware of the problem of antibiotic resistance due to overuse in animal agriculture, but the agency’s process for reviewing and withdrawing drugs from the market is far too slow and cumbersome. A recent effort to withdraw an antibiotic from use by poultry producers due to concerns about human antibiotic resistance lasted for more than five years, costing millions of taxpayer dollars. And while the judicial proceedings dragged on, disease-causing bacteria continued to outwit antibiotics.
While some producers and retailers of meat products have announced policies that take steps to curb antibiotic use, private-sector initiatives to reduce antibiotic use in animal agriculture are relatively rare, limited in scope, and difficult to verify. Federal action is needed to achieve comprehensive reductions and create a level playing field for all producers and retailers.
Passage of PAMTA is critical to keep antibiotics working for human health. In addition to averting the harmful effects of antibiotic overuse on human health, curtailing animal use of antibiotics will encourage producers to raise animals in better living conditions that are less conducive to disease.
Parenthetically, it is flattering to see Slaughter reference new data on the amount of antibiotics used in animals in the United States — almost 29 million pounds — and the percentage of the total market antibiotic market that represents: 80 percent. Those pieces of news were broken over the Congressional break by myself, here at SUPERBUG, and by Ralph Loglisci at the blog of the Center for a Livable Future.