The Implications of Over-Reliance on Antibiotics

By Sandy K. Johnson

Antibiotics saved the life of Dr. Mike Apley’s son when he was stricken with a potentially lethal MSRA infection. There is a place for antibiotics as a medical therapeutic.

Same for animals. A farmer who has a sick cow or hog at times needs antibiotics to regain the animal’s health. As of Jan. 1, 2017, farmers need a veterinarian’s approval to use antibiotics on livestock. That’s because some ag producers were using antibiotics to speed growth of their livestock, in order to get the animals to market quicker.

An uproar over non-medical use of antibiotics led to a label change by pharmaceutical companies after the federal Food and Drug Administration leaned on them. “So all those pharmaceutical companies voluntarily changed their label for the drug,” said Apley, a veterinarian and professor at Kansas State University and member of a presidential task force on antibiotics.

Apley said the Trump administration, which is rolling back many rules and regulations from earlier years, cannot reverse the antibiotic change.

Apley pushed the theory of antibiotic stewardship for people as well as livestock. He said health professionals – vets and doctors alike – have a responsibility to look for non-antibiotic alternatives when possible; make sure any antibiotics are safe and effective; and question whether antibiotic intervention is necessary.

“Antibiotic stewardship is really tough. What that means is we’re going to put the short-term interest of individuals behind the long-term interests of society,” Apley said. The reason why? To curb the rise of antibiotic-resistant infections like MRSA.

This program is funded by DuPont Pioneer, the National Pork Board, the American Farm Bureau Federation and Organic Valley. NPF is solely responsible for the content.

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