The White House hosted 150 leaders from human and animal health organizations on Tuesday, to discuss how to curb the overuse of antibiotics, which many fear is leading to the creation of drug-resistant bacteria that could become a threat to human life.
The One Health Forum on Antibiotic Stewardship involved experts from hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, agriculture groups and federal regulators. The goal is to alter how antibiotics are prescribed and used in the U.S. in order to slow the spread of so-called “super bugs.”
The forum came as President Barack Obama plans to sign a memorandum today that would direct federal agencies to give preference to using meat and poultry produced via responsible antibiotic use. In addition, the Presidential Food Service will also commit to only serving meats and poultry that were not treated with antibiotics or hormones.
The White House originally signed Executive Order 13676 in September 2014, designating the fight against antibiotic resistance as a priority. In March, the Administration released a five year plan to combat and prevent antibiotic-resistance bacteria.
At the forum, the White House received commitments on a number of stewardship practices from the private sector, including hospitals, health systems, long-term care facilities, pharmacies, pharmaceutical companies, livestock and poultry farmers and animal pharmaceutical companies.
Some of the private sector commitments (PDF) come from major companies. Tyson Foods, Inc., for example, has vowed to eliminate the use of human antibiotics in its broiler chicken flocks by September 2017 and will also work with independent farmers to reduce antibiotic use across the board. Other major players who are making various antibiotic stewardship commitments include McDonald’s, Walmart, Foster Farms, Kaiser Permanente, Smithfield, Panera Bread and Merck Animal Health.
On the same day as the conference, the FDA announced that it had finalized a new Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) final rule. The rule requires veterinarians to be responsible for authorizing the use of antibiotics for specific animal health purposes that do not include animal growth.
Each state will develop its own veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) requirements, which must be followed by veterinarians in that state. The FDA will review those state standards to ensure they meet the overall federal standards for issuing VFDs.
Concerns Over Antibiotic-Resistant “Superbugs” Growing
Drug-resistant superbugs recently made headlines across the country after nearly 200 patients treated at California’s UCLA Medical Center were exposed to a deadly antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The outbreak caused two deaths, seven confirmed infections and was linked to tainted medical equipment, which had undergone normal sterilization treatment.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates drug-resistant bacteria, or superbugs, cause 2 million illnesses and approximately 23,000 deaths each year in the United States alone.
A British report published late last year said we may see 10 million deaths attributable to antibiotic resistant bacteria every year by 2050. The report called drug-resistant germs a “global crisis,” estimating it will cost up to $100 trillion.
Another study published last year questioned the common practice of treating resistant pathogens with aggressive doses of antibiotics. The study revealed this may not be the best way to treat resistant pathogens. Using aggressive or multiple rounds of antibiotics it may contribute to the spread of superbugs.
The federal budget released earlier this year proposed a near doubling of the amount of federal funding for combating and preventing antibiotic-resistance, bringing the budget to more than $1.2 billion for this area.