About AHI


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Animals & Medicine

Why are pets given medicines?
Pets need medicines for the same types of illnesses that humans do. Scientists have developed medicines for animals to treat infectious diseases, heartworms, intestinal parasites, and drugs that enhance a pet’s quality of life, such as motion sickness medicines. We’ve also developed vaccines to prevent devastating diseases such as rabies, canine parvovirus, and feline leukemia.

What are common types of animal medicines?
AHI member companies make medicines for animals that fall into three areas:

    1. Vaccines and other “biologics” to prevent animal diseases such as West Nile Virus, foot and mouth disease, and rabies.
    2. Flea and tick products or “insecticides” to kill fleas, ticks, mites, and flies for pets, livestock and poultry.
    3. Pharmaceuticals, including de-wormers, antibiotics to treat illnesses, and anti-inflammatory medicines for pain relief.

Why are farm animals given medicines?
There are a variety of conditions that can affect food producing animals, such as bacterial and viral infections and parasitic infestations. In order to keep animals healthy and reduce suffering, animal medicines are administered by veterinarians and producers to prevent, control, and treat these problems.

How are medicines used for food-producing animals?
Veterinarians have a broad range of animal medicines available to them in the fight against animal diseases. Animal medicines are used to:

    • Prevent diseases– Vaccines and pharmaceuticals are needed to prevent and control infectious diseases among livestock and poultry.
    • Treat sick animals– Antibiotics are necessary for the treatment of sick animals and to prevent the spread of disease to other livestock.
    • Control outbreaks– Veterinarians use medicines to control internal and external parasites in animals.

How is farm animal health related to food safety?
Research shows that healthy animals are an important factor in providing safer food. Animal medicines are a critical link in the food safety chain, as they represent needed tools for farmers and veterinarians to help to produce healthy animals and to improve the availability of affordable protein.


Regulation and Oversight

Who regulates animal medicines and how are they approved for use?
Like human medicines, animal medicines undergo extensive trials and testing and must be approved by the federal government before they enter the marketplace. The FDA is responsible for the approval of both human and animal drugs, and it enforces comparable standards for safety, efficacy and quality and uses similar procedures during the review and approval process. All drugs must demonstrate they are safe and effective for the labeled indication(s), must be properly labeled, and must be produced under good manufacturing practices.

Drug trials are reviewed by veterinarians and scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) before products are put on the market. Veterinarians and scientists at the EPA, FDA and USDA oversee how animal medicines are administered.


Antibiotic Use in Animals

Why are antibiotics used in animals?
To prevent and manage infectious diseases, it is sometimes necessary for veterinarians and farmers to use antibiotics. Research has shown the proper use of antibiotics can keep food animals healthy and reduce the potential for harmful bacterial contamination of finished meat products. Medically important antibiotics added to feed or water are only used in food animals when it’s necessary to treat, control or prevent disease and illness, and exclusively under the supervision and prescription of a licensed veterinarian.

Are antibiotics used to make animals grow bigger and faster?
An FDA policy that stops the use of medically-important antibiotics to promote growth in farm animals went into effect in January 2017. Farmers, veterinarians, and the companies that make medicines for animals comply with the FDA policy, which ensures animal health and well-being while providing consumers with the safest food possible. For more information about this policy and how it’s being implemented, please go to TogetherABX.com.

In what situations are farm animals given antibiotics?
Animals will only be given medically-important antibiotics when it is necessary to treat, control or prevent diseases, and only under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian. These are all therapeutic uses, meaning there is no longer any sub-therapeutic use of medically important antibiotics in food animals.

Will the new FDA policy reduce the amount of antibiotics used in food animals?
The FDA policy is intended to ensure antibiotics are used only when needed to fight disease, not to simply reduce use. AHI supports the USDA antibiotic resistance strategy that is collecting data and information to help gauge the results of this FDA policy and help producers become better users of antibiotics.

Do antibiotics used in animals increase antibiotic resistance in humans?
Humans have an extremely low risk of experiencing antibiotic resistance from food. While it is possible that antibiotic resistant bacteria can transfer from animals to humans, the chances are extremely small that a person would contract an illness that cannot be treated with an antibiotic as a result of that person consuming food from animals treated with that antibiotic. Data produced by the National Antimicrobial Resistance monitoring System (NARMS) and recent published literature shows little relationship between resistance rates and patterns in humans and animals, an indication that there is little or no transfer of resistant bacteria from humans to animals.

Why are more antibiotics used in animals?
More antibiotics are used in animals than humans because there are far more animals in the United States than people. There are more than 90 million cattle, 5.3 million sheep and lamb, 66 million hogs, 200 million turkeys and eight billion chickens on U.S. farms. The combined weight of livestock and poultry in the U.S. is roughly 3.5 times that of the combined weight of American men and women. A 1,200 pound steer is equal to roughly six men. If a steer needs treatment for pneumonia, it’s logical that the steer will require a larger antibiotic dose than a person. Similarly, it is logical that our combined U.S. livestock and poultry herds and flocks will require more antibiotics by volume than our combined human population. And, keep in mind that a large percentage of antibiotics sold for animals have little to no human uses.

Why wouldn’t producers raise animals without antibiotics?
Some producers do raise animals without antibiotics, but not using antibiotics also has costs to animal welfare and can add to production costs. While it is possible to raise animals completely antibiotic-free, when an animal is sick, it is imperative for the sake of the animal to treat the animal to reduce suffering. If antibiotics cannot be given to animals, producers can either let animals die or transfer them to a conventional production system in order to administer antibiotics. The FDA requires that animals are only given medically-important antibiotics when it is necessary to treat, control or prevent diseases, and only under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian.

How can we be sure there is not antibiotic residue in meat?
Antibiotics must be virtually eliminated from an animal’s system before it can be processed for food. A strict waiting period is enforced prior to processing, during which time animals are not given antibiotics or other medications. USDA tests for residues that might exceed FDA mandated limits, and more than 99% of meat products test negative.

For more information about animal antibiotic use and regulations, visit www.togetherABX.com.

One Health

What is “One Health?”
One Health is a growing international movement that promotes communication among physicians, veterinarians and other life-sciences professionals, and has been endorsed by many national and global organizations concerned with emerging infectious diseases, as well as other public-health threats.

AHI shares the same goals as the American Medical Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association to examine, address, and eradicate diseases at the nexus of animal and public health.

Which One Health initiatives does AHI participate in?
AHI actively participates in the One Health Academy, the One Health Commission, and the One Health Initiative. We also have held several events to further the One Health conversation in Washington, D.C., by bringing together thought leaders from the CDC, the USDA and the FDA, as well as human health and veterinary health practitioners. For more information, visit Healthy People. Healthy Animals. Healthy Planet .