Tuesday, 11 December 2012

FDA urged to make public information about antibiotic use

The Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future and the Government Accountability Project have spent a couple years asking the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to release information about the amount of antibiotic use in farm animals.  Overuse of antibiotics in farm animals may lead to the evolution of more dangerous drug-resistant strains.

FDA releases some summary data each year, but denied the request for more detailed tabulations,citing an exemption in freedom-of-information law that applies to commercial information and trade secrets.  This seems wrong.  Misuse of antibiotics is an important public health issue, and the aggregated data requested were not firm-specific.

In response, the Center for a Livable Future and the Government Accountability Project brought a lawsuit this month.  The Center's director Robert Lawrence explains this week:
Since 2008, when the Animal Drug User Fee Act (ADUFA) began requiring drug companies to report basic information about antibiotic sales to FDA, the agency has released limited summaries of these data to the public. Sadly, though, the FDA conceals most of what gets reported by the drug companies. This concealment protects the producers and the drug companies, both of which make tidy profits from injudicious dosing of food animals.

In the meantime, the Center's staff has done some clever sleuthing, exploiting a glitch in FDA's annual release of summary data, which was followed by a correction to the agency's numbers.  The Center tracked down the source of the change in order to conjecture about the amount of antibiotics used in one particular category called arsenicals.

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