The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) announced today that it is implementing a plan to help phase out the use of medically important antimicrobials in food animals for food production purposes, such as to enhance growth or improve feed efficiency. The plan would also phase in veterinary oversight of the remaining appropriate therapeutic uses of such drugs.

The plan announced today focuses on those antimicrobial drugs that are considered medically important (i.e., are important for treating human infection) and which are approved for use in feed and water of food animals.

In a final guidance issued today, FDA lays out a road map for animal pharmaceutical companies to voluntarily revise the FDA-approved use conditions on the labels of these products to remove production indications. The plan also calls for changing the current over-the-counter (OTC) status to bring the remaining appropriate therapeutic uses under veterinary oversight. Once a manufacturer voluntarily makes these changes, its medically important antimicrobial drugs can no longer be used for production purposes, and their use to treat, control or prevent disease in animals will require veterinary oversight.

FDA is asking animal pharmaceutical companies to notify the agency of their intent to sign on to the strategy within the next three months. These companies would then have a three-year transition process.

In order to help phase in veterinary oversight of those drugs covered by the guidance that are intended for medically appropriate uses in feed, FDA also has issued a proposed rule to update the existing regulations relating to veterinary feed directive (VFD) drugs. The use of VFD drugs requires specific authorization by a licensed veterinarian using a process outlined in the agency's VFD regulations. The VFD proposed rule is intended to update the existing VFD process and facilitate expanded veterinary oversight by clarifying and increasing the flexibility of the administrative requirements for the distribution and use of VFD drugs. Such updates to the VFD process will assist in the transition of OTC products to their new VFD status, FDA said.

The guidance for animal pharmaceutical companies is now in final form, and the proposed VFD rule is open for public comment for 90 days starting on Dec. 12, 2013. To electronically submit comments on the proposed VFD rule, go to www.regulations.gov and insert docket FDA-2010-N-0155. Send written comments to the Division of Dockets Management, Food and Drug Administration, Room 1061, 5630 Fishers Lane, Rockville, MD 20852.

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