Prescription-Only Access to Veterinary Antimicrobials Is Coming: How to Navigate the Transition
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is bringing the use of many common veterinary antimicrobial drugs under direct veterinary supervision, effective June 11.
This is the result of growing concerns that the unchecked use of drugs, important in human medicine, may lead to the development of resistant microbial strains.
Under the Guidance for Industry (GFI) Number 263, antibiotics currently available over the counter will become available by prescription only. GFI Number 263 is available at bit.ly/GFI-263.
This FDA regulation builds on the 2017 Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD), which limits general use of antimicrobial-containing animal feeds. In the livestock industry, the impact of this regulation was primarily felt by the feedlot sector. However, the impending GFI Number 263 will impact all types and classes of livestock and domesticated animals.
Prescription required for antimicrobial drugs
A prescription from a licensed veterinarian will be required to purchase antimicrobial drugs including oxytetracyclines (e.g. Liquamycin LA-200, Oxytet), penicillin, sulfa-based antimicrobials, tylosin (e.g. Tylan) and cephapirin products, among others.
GFI Number 263 addresses antimicrobials only and does not affect antiparasitics, pro- and pre-biotics, supplements or non-antibiotic topical treatments.
A complete list of the drugs restricted to prescription use under GFI Number 263 can be viewed online at bit.ly/GFI-list.
It is important to note purchasing prescription antimicrobials from a veterinarian who is prescribing the drugs is not required. The prescription will be good for purchase at any farm and ranch supply store carrying the product.
It might be tempting to stock up the animal medicine cabinet while antibiotics remain available over the counter, but ranchers should keep in mind the expiration period of products and their rates of use to ensure they are not spending money only to have the drug expire on the shelf.
Expired drugs should be disposed of and not used in livestock or other animals.
Perhaps the most important step animal owners should take in preparing for the implementation of GFI Number 263 is to ensure they have a veterinary client-patient relationship (VCPR) in place.
Essentially, a VCPR is a shared understanding between a veterinarian and a client regarding the management of an animal, so the vet can ethically diagnose diseases and prescribe medications, the client is involved in the process and the patient receives the highest-quality care.
The American Veterinary Medical Association notes a VCPR in Wyoming should be characterized by a licensee, or veterinarian, assuming the responsibility for making medical judgments regarding the health of the animal and the need for medical treatment; an agreement from the client to follow the instructions of the licensee and the licensee having sufficient knowledge of the animal to initiate a general or preliminary diagnosis of its medical condition, at least.
This means the licensee has recently seen and is personally acquainted with the keeping and care of the animal as a result of an examination or by medically appropriate and timely visits to the location where the animal is kept and is readily available for follow-up care in case of adverse reactions or failure of the regimen of therapy.
Many farmers and ranchers operate under an informal, good faith VCPR. With the upcoming changes to the use and availability of antibiotics, having a formally documented VCPR is recommended.
Preparing a VCPR
Preparing early will speed up the process of accessing treatments when an animal gets sick. Producers can check with their veterinarian to see if they have a VCPR agreement form they can sign together or draft their own. Many templates and examples are available via a quick internet search.
If working with a new veterinarian, animal owners should expect an in-person examination of the animal in question before a prescription for antibiotics will be made.
In herd or flock health situations, this might involve a site visit by the vet to the ranch or animal housing area. In cases where a VCPR already exists, these steps may not be necessary.
The implementation of GFI Number 263 on June 11 will impact the livestock industry across Wyoming. Producers who are prepared and have a defined working relationship with their local veterinarian will be well-positioned to access critical antimicrobial drugs and continue to provide excellent health care for their animals.
Micah Most is the agriculture and natural resources educator with University of Wyoming Extension serving Johnson County. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 307-684-7522.