Why Antibiotic Makers Aren't Worried About FDA's Livestock Rules

Venessa Wong | Bloomberg Businessweek | December 12, 2013

In a move to alleviate concerns about overuse of antibiotics on farms, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued new guidance directing at animal pharmaceutical companies to phase out the use of certain drugs to promote weight gain in animals. But this won’t mean drug-free livestock: The three-year initiative is voluntary—drug companies don’t have to participate—and it only affects antibiotics that are also used to treat humans, not animal-only antibiotics or growth promoters that are not antibiotics.

The plan asks drug makers to revise labels to remove usage of the products for growth enhancement, and “by law, drugs administered through feed must be used according to the approved labeling,” according to the FDA. Farmers can still use them to treat or prevent specific animal diseases, but the plan also asks companies to change the drugs’ over-the-counter status so that farmers will require a prescription or order from a licensed veterinarian.

Zoetis (ZTS) and Eli Lilly’s (LLY) Elanco, which sell a large share of the drugs, both plan to adopt the voluntary guidelines (Elanco will implement a similar policy worldwide). But neither expects a significant impact on overall sales. [...]