Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act
House of Representatives
To protect animal and human health by combating the excessive use of antibiotics in agriculture, the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY) and the Preventing Antibiotic Resistance Act of 2013 was introduced in the Senate by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME).
- would prohibit the nontherapeutic feeding of medically-important antibiotics to livestock;
- would withdraw FDA approval of antibiotics for nontherapeutic use unless the drug manufacturer demonstrates a reasonable certainty that such use will not harm human health due to antibiotic resistance; and
- would not restrict the use of antibiotics to treat sick animals. In addition, it would only reach classes of drugs used in human medicine, leaving other drug options available to producers.
Producers who employ appropriate management need not medicate their animals to keep them healthy. The Animal Welfare Institute's own Animal Welfare Approved certification program prohibits the use of nontherapeutic antibiotics. The farmers maintain herd health through careful breed selection, vaccination, pasture management, exceptional hygiene, and the reduction of stressors that weaken animal immune systems.
Animal Welfare Approved requires farmers to provide sick animals with appropriate medical treatment but promotes the use of antibiotics only for animals who have been diagnosed with a microbial disease.
Why is this important?
- Excessive use of antibiotics leads to resistance. Intensive production of livestock in the U.S. relies upon antibiotics. The practice of feeding farm animals low doses of antibiotics in food and water originated in the 1950s and has since become standard practice, enabling confinement operations to suppress disease while rearing tens of thousands of animals in crowded and unhealthy environments. The development of antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria is traceable to the excessive use of antibiotics in agriculture and presents one of today's most urgent public health threats.
- Bacteria carried by animals can develop resistance when exposed to antibiotics at low levels. Antibiotics are administered at these low levels for two nontherapeutic purposes: 1) to increase feed efficiency and promote growth; and 2) to suppress disease in animals who are not yet sick. Most antibiotics used for growth promotion and all antibiotics used for prophylactic disease suppression are used or related to antimicrobials used in human medicine.
- Antibiotic use is not subject to administrative record keeping. No government entity maintains data on which antibiotics are used in animal agriculture and in what quantities. The Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that nontherapeutic livestock use constitutes 70% of antibiotics consumed in the U.S. The Animal Health Institute, a trade body representing pharmaceutical companies, estimates agricultural use for growth promotion to be 13%. By either account, the U.S. leads the world in the use of antibiotics in food animal production, yet there is no reporting system in place to document the full extent of such use.
- Antibiotic resistance increases healthcare costs. Confinement operations profit from the misuse of antibiotics, but at the expense of our health. The increase in antibiotic resistant infections has led to rising healthcare costs estimated as high as $30 billion. Moreover, resistant strains of bacteria infect farm animals as well as humans, jeopardizing the economic stability and biological security of the nation's food supply.
Find out more about the human health impacts of excessive antibiotic use in agriculture.