An NPR member station
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Why the FDA tightened rules around antimicrobial medications for animals


You might have to go to the vet more often now when your dog or cat has an infection. That's because the FDA is out with a new rule that requires all antimicrobial medication for animals, some of which you can usually find over the counter, to be prescribed by a veterinarian. The rule begins to take effect tomorrow. Joining us now from the FDA is William Flynn, deputy director at the Center for Veterinary Medicine. Dr. Flynn, thanks so much for being with us.


SIMON: What do you hope getting veterinarians more involved in the process will accomplish?

FLYNN: So I think generally, you know, this is relevant both to animal health and human health. There's a very concerted effort to improve how these drugs are being used. You only use an antibiotic when it's really necessary. And so, you know, importance of having a veterinarian involved is helping to ensure that a disease is appropriately diagnosed and determining whether an antimicrobial therapy is even needed. If an antibiotic is needed, then what's the appropriate drug? And I think that's another role that, you know, a veterinarian can play. All of these things can help to slow down the rate at which the bacteria may develop resistance to the drug.

SIMON: You don't want people just going on TikTok and kind of self-prescribing for their pet...

FLYNN: You know, that's right. I mean, I think there's veterinary...

SIMON: ...Or farm animals, I think. Yeah.

FLYNN: Right. And this applies - again, there may be other drugs, maybe other antibiotics that would be more appropriate to treat that disease and would more likely get a more effective outcome to address that disease in that animal. And I think that's, you know, an important role that the veterinarian can play.

SIMON: And remind us, please, of the particular dangers of antimicrobial resistance in both animals and people.

FLYNN: Well, antimicrobial resistance poses a real concern because bacteria have amazing capabilities to develop mechanisms to evade these therapies and, you know, essentially develop mechanisms for - of resistance. And that can lead to diseases that - for which we just do not have effective therapies. And so it is really important, therefore, that we do everything we can to preserve the effectiveness of the products we have. And that, again, includes in all places where we need antibiotics, including both human and animal health.

SIMON: Of course, the FDA has already tightened regulations on how most farm animals get their medication, which I guess is through feed and water. What do you say to farmers who don't like extending this rule to injections and pills, since, after all, those are much more rare ways to medicate farm animals?

FLYNN: Yes. So this, again, is part of, you know, a concerted effort across all sectors where antimicrobials are being used. And all of these uses, whether it's use in human medicine or for animal health or other uses of antimicrobials, can contribute to this problem in terms of, you know, driving resistance development. And so it is important that we look at all sectors and all uses of antibiotics. We took steps back in 2017 to transition all the uses of these drugs, important drugs in feed and water for livestock and poultry to veterinary oversight or prescription status. We sort of reserved these last group of products, you know, to provide sort of a transition. And now this is sort of following on to that step to transition these remaining products, which are products that contain some of the same drugs, same active ingredients, as the feed and water products that have already been transitioned over to prescription products.

SIMON: William Flynn is deputy director at the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine. Thanks so much for being with us.

FLYNN: Thank you. It's good to be with you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.