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Physicians, Nurses, Clinicians, Hospitals Ask Congress to Enact Legislation Prohibiting Non-therapeutic Use of Antibiotics in Animal Production

Wednesday, July 14, 2010 Hospital News J E 4
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Requests Come on Eve of Congressional Hearing on Use of Antibiotics in Agriculture

WASHINGTON, July 13 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- More than 1000 physicians and other clinicians, including nurses, have signed statements asking Congress to pass legislation to reduce the use of non-therapeutic antibiotics in food animals. Hospital and Healthy Systems representing over sixty healthcare facilities also signed a petition in support of legislation to end unnecessary antibiotics use in food animal agriculture. Another 300 hospitals have pledged to make changes in their food service meat purchases to exclude meat raised with antibiotics. Health Care Without Harm announced the health care sector's support of antibiotics legislation on the eve of a July 14 hearing conducted by the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health to examine the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture.

"The healthcare community has clearly indicated that they need help from their elected officials in protecting the antibiotics they use for the health of patients and staff," stated Jamie Harvie, chair of the HCWH Healthy Food Initiative. "With antibiotic resistance creating huge financial and public health threats to our healthcare system, we hope our government will support health of people and communities by eliminating non-therapeutic uses of antibiotics in agriculture."

The statement signed by practitioners includes the following: "We believe that legislation is necessary to preserve the effectiveness of our existing antibiotics." The statements and names of signers are available at http://noharm.org/lib/downloads/food/Health_Care_Antibiotics_Response.pdf.

Antibiotic resistant bacterial infections are a serious concern for individuals, communities and our health care delivery system. Patients suffer longer illnesses and pay higher medical costs, and health practitioners are left with little means to protect their patients or themselves from bacterial infection. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 60,000 Americans die annually from antibiotic-resistant infections. The American College of Physicians estimates that $30 billion is spent on the cumulative effects of antimicrobial resistance each year (including multiple drug regimens, extra hospital days, additional medical care and lost productivity).

Despite the rising rates and immense medical costs of antibiotic resistance, antibiotics and related drugs are routinely added to the feed of livestock and poultry not to treat diagnosed disease, but to promote faster growth and compensate for unsanitary living conditions. In 2003, the U.S. Institute of Medicine/ National Academy of Science stated that "substantial efforts must be made to decrease inappropriate overuse [of antibiotics] in animals and agriculture" and that decreasing "antimicrobial use in human medicine alone will have little effect on the current [antibiotic-resistant] situation."

Past efforts by the Food and Drug Administration to reduce the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture has not been successful in ending the non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in food animals. Earlier this year, Congress introduced the Preservation of Antibiotics for the Medical Treatment Act (HR 1549), which would require the FDA to re-review the approvals it previously issued for animal feed uses of the seven classes of antibiotics that are important to human medicine. Any found to be unsafe from a resistance point of view will have their approvals rescinded.

"We are hopeful that Congress will take steps to protect the nation's health by preserving our precious arsenals of antibiotics for human use," stated Harvie. "We ask that the voice of the nation's physicians and other medical care providers will be considered as the House tries to legislate on this important topic."

HCWH is an international coalition of more than 430 organizations in 52 countries, working to transform the health care industry worldwide, without compromising patient safety or care, so that it is ecologically sustainable and no longer a source of harm to public health and the environment. HCWH has an ambitious healthy food agenda, which includes; avoiding food raised with growth hormones and antibiotics. For more information on overuse of antibiotics in food animals, see http://noharm.org/us_canada/issues/food/protect_antibiotics.php. Health care practitioners who want to add their names to the petitions and letters can do so at www.protectantibiotics.org.

SOURCE Health Care Without Harm
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