Big Pharma presses farm antibiotics, as deadly superbugs rise

The U.S. wants to fight superbugs by targeting one of the world’s biggest markets for antibiotics: farms.

Big pharma has other ideas.

Even as the industry prepares to comply with new Food and Drug Administration efforts to limit antibiotic use in American livestock, it is marketing the drugs to U.S. veterinarians while continuing to expand sales elsewhere around the world. Bacteria resistant to antibiotic drugs, or superbugs, are a growing problem particularly in hospitals and claim an estimated 700,000 lives annually. Scientists say there is an intimate link between the health of the planet’s livestock and that of the human population.

“If some of the biggest responsible parties — namely the companies making the products — are still selling the antibiotics in other countries, it just underscores that this has to be a change that happens across the entire world,” said David Wallinga, senior health official and physician at the National Resources Defense Council. “And the companies bear a big responsibility for that approach.”

Companies, farmers and food processors contend that antibiotic drugs remain an essential tool for providing consumers with healthy, plentiful meat and poultry at affordable prices. Even so, they support using alternatives to antibiotics that contribute to superbugs, and some are working on vaccines to do the job antibiotics now perform.

“We’re going through some sort of a phase,” said Jack Bendheim, chief executive officer of Phibro Animal Health Corp., one of the largest global animal-health companies. “Antibiotics work very well. We love these products. We love what they do for the animals.” He spoke at an investor conference in September. read more…

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