Antibiotic regulations tighten, but drugs will still be available

BANFF, Alta. — Pork producers have questions about access to antibiotics as rules change in Canada aimed at mitigating the effects of antimicrobial resistant bacteria.

Swine veterinarian Dr. Egan Brockhoff said he fields many queries, but he assured producers at the Banff Pork Seminar Jan. 11 that antibiotics will continue to be available for swine production.

The federal government has developed and published a “framework for action on antimicrobial resistance and antimicrobial use.”

It includes provision for continued use of antimicrobials in livestock production, albeit with changes, said Brockhoff. Some changes to use are already in effect and others are pending.

“All in-feed antibiotics used today will still be available tomorrow,” he said, noting this is a common concern among hog producers.

As well, Class 1 antibiotics, those most important in human medicine, will still be available for pigs but only by prescription from a veterinarian, Brockhoff said. Class 1 antimicrobials labelled for pigs include enrofloxacin (Baytril) and ceftiofur (Excede), among others.

Medically important antibiotics will no longer be available to livestock producers over the counter, and products will no longer be allowed to carry growth promotion claims on their labels.

Brockhoff said Health Canada regulations are designed to provide increased oversight of antimicrobial use by veterinarians as well as greater oversight of veterinarians themselves in terms of dispensing.

Manufacturers will have to report all sales, which is a new requirement, and own-use imports of drugs have been curtailed, he said, adding that the pork industry is not a major user of the OUI option.

Veterinary health products such as prebiotics, probiotics and enzymes will be subject to oversight as of May 2018 for low risk products. Those products can’t claim they treat or cure illness but can say they may maintain the health and welfare of animals. As well, they must be provided in a dosage form.

Brockhoff said the rest of the world is also being asked to adjust its rules surrounding antimicrobial use as awareness grows about resistant bacteria.

The new rules might help streamline paperwork for feed mills when they add antimicrobials to feed and might also move veterinarians to greater use of electronic tracking when giving prescriptions.

Increased tracking is also expected to help all players better understand how antimicrobial use relates to development of resistance.

  • Class 1 – very high importance and the preferred option for treatment of serious human infection, with either no or very few available alternatives
  • Class 2 – high importance for treating human infections, with some alternatives available
  • Class 3 – medium importance and not the preferred option for treatment in humans
  • Class 4 – low importance; not used in human medicine
  • increasing oversight of veterinary drug imports
  • increasing oversight on import and quality of active pharmaceutical ingredients (changes take effect May 2018)
  • mandatory reporting of sales volume from manufacturers and importers (changes take effect March 31, 2019)
  • facilitating access to low-risk veterinary health products as additional tools for animal health and welfare
  • removing growth promotion claims from medically important antimicrobials
  • increasing veterinary oversight over all medically important antimicrobials (changes take effect Dec. 1, 2018)

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