Over-the-counter livestock antibiotics will require prescription

Published 8:15 am Friday, June 23, 2023

Beginning this month, animal antibiotics will no longer be labeled for sale over the counter and will be removed from local farm supplies stores.

What this means for producers is that they will no longer be able to purchase affected drugs without a prescription from a veterinarian or having an active veterinarian-client-patient relationship.

This does not mean that you must have a veterinarian come out to diagnose and treat every animal that has an issue on your farm. It simply means that you will no longer be able to run to your nearest Tractor Supply and pick up a bottle of LA-200.

PROBLEMS WITH HERD HEALTH

For local veterinarian Dr. Ben Coates, owner of Falling River Large Animal Vet Services, he said having that veterinarian-client-patient relationship is important and vital.

“I require a minimum of two herd health consultations per year, in which I discuss production goals with the farmers if there are any issues with the current operation or herd health, and what is needed for on-site patient care. By doing so, I can understand what is needed in regard to veterinary care and medications to have on inventory for the farmers to use.” Coates said.

The change is part of an effort by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to combat antibiotic resistance, but many small farmers are upset by the change and say it will make it more costly to operate, on top of how difficult it can be to find large animal veterinarians.

A MAJOR CONCERN

Dr. Coates said a major concern in veterinary medicine is the development of antibiotic resistance from improper usage of antibiotics.

“Veterinarians argue this will help address the concern by passing this law and requiring the antibiotics to be prescribed by a veterinarian,” said Coates.

“The second side is the enforcement of this law can provide a major inconvenience to people in several respects. In recent years, times can be tough on people and money can be tight, in which enforcing this law can be a major impediment for some folks with financial constraints. Also, penicillin, oxytetracycline, and tylosin are good first-line antibiotics and can be more than adequate for most situations, and requiring a doctor’s prescription for these medicines means more hoops to jump through. This issue is both a blessing and a curse and both arguments are valid.”

Coates said the new law could be good for some and bad for others.

“There will be farmers who will be open to working with a veterinarian to establish a relationship and herd health plan, which can enable the farmers to do more for their animals without needing to call a veterinarian, and then it’s only just consultation visits to keep current with the herd health plan,” Coates said. “On the other hand, some folks cannot afford veterinarian visits and medications, so this law can be a major obstacle for them to provide care for their animals.

AN INCREASE COMING

While Coates said he expects to see an increase in farm consultations due to the new law starting this summer Bobby Long, owner of Long’s Farm Supply in Brookneal said the removal of antibiotics from his shelves should have a minimal impact on his business.

“Antibiotic sales are only a small portion of the farm supply business for us,” Long said. “The loss of these sales alone should only have a marginal impact. The part that is hard to discern is what secondary sales are missed from losing that visit by the customer. Those peripheral sales may very well have a larger impact.”

Long said that while the primary goal of this change is to ensure antibiotics are not overused in animal agriculture A side effect of that goal will be all animal caretakers taking more time to evaluate the need for treatment. “This delay in treatment may have negative results for the animal in some cases.” Long said. “While most livestock producers and animal owners are good caretakers of their animals, they are also managing time and money. Both of these considerations will weigh heavily on treatment decisions which may also prove less favorable for the animals.”

Affected products that will be removed will include cephapirin, cephapirin benzathine, gentamicin, lincomycin, oxytetracycline, penicillin G procaine, penicillin G benzathine, sulfadimethoxine, sulfamethazine, tylosin. For clarity, this will include LA-200 and 300, Noromycin, Vetramyicn, Duramycin, Terramycin, Draxxin, Penicillin, Tylan, ToDay, TomMorrow, and many other commonly used livestock antibiotics.

These new guidelines will not include non-medically important antimicrobials such as coccidiostats, ionophores, bacitracins, carbadox, flavomycins, and tiamulin.