WASHINGTON — The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) unveiled its report on Dec. 10 regarding antimicrobials being sold or distributed for use in food-producing animals. 

The agency said in the report that domestic sales and distribution of medically important antimicrobials for use in food-producing animals increased 9 percent between 2017 and 2018.

However, the report showed domestic sales are down 21 percent since 2009, when the first report that summarized the sales/distribution data was published. Sales are also down 38 percent since 2015, the peak year of sales/distribution since the FDA began issuing the annual reports on this subject.

In addition, tetracyclines, which represent the largest volume of those domestic sales (3,974,179 kgs in 2017), decreased by 12 percent from 2017 through 2018.

“While sales data do not necessarily reflect actual antimicrobial use, sales volume observed over time is a valuable indicator of market changes related to antimicrobial drug products intended for food-producing animals,” The FDA summary said. “However, when evaluating the progress of ongoing efforts to support judicious use of antimicrobials, it is important to take into account additional information sources including actual use data, animal demographics, animal health data, and data on resistance.”

The agency elaborated that its objective is to slow the development of antimicrobials resistance while also preserving the effectiveness of antimicrobials for fighting disease in animals and humans.

FDA noted that its aim is not only measured by a reduction in sales volume of antimicrobials but also includes fostering good antimicrobial stewardship practices. The agency said it does that by optimizing the use of these products and limiting their use in animals to only when necessary to treat, control, or prevent disease.

“It is important to acknowledge that these data are sponsor estimates of product sales and are not intended to be a substitute for actual usage data,” the agency said. “For example, veterinarians and animal producers may purchase drugs, but never actually administer them to animals, or they may administer the drugs in later years.”

The report also detailed additional domestic sales and distribution related to antimicrobials approved for use in food-producing animals.

Tetracyclines accounted for 66 percent of such antimicrobials, penicillins for 12 percent, macrolides for 8 percent, sulfas for 5 percent, aminoglycosides for 5 percent, lincosamides for 2 percent, cephalosporins for 1 percent and fluoroquinolones for less than 1 percent.

An estimated 42 percent of antimicrobials was intended for use in cattle, an estimated 39 percent was intended for swine use, an estimated 11 percent for use in turkeys, an estimated 4 percent for use in chickens, and an estimated 4 percent for use in other species/unknown.

Also, an estimated 81 percent of cephalosporins, 67 percent of sulfas, 47 percent of aminoglycosides, and 44 percent of tetracyclines were intended for use in cattle. An estimated 83 percent of lincosamides and 41 percent of macrolides were intended for use in swine. An estimated 63 percent of penicillins was intended for use in turkeys.