An administrative law judge yesterday upheld the Food and Drug Administration's decision to ban an antibiotic used to treat chickens because it was making human antibiotics less effective.
The drug Baytril, manufactured by Bayer Corp., was ordered off the market in 2000 along with another poultry medication in an effort to limit the spread of antibiotic resistance that enables bacteria to become impervious to drugs they regularly encounter. The FDA targeted the two antibiotics because they are close relatives to a popular family of drugs used to treat human disease.
The drug remains on the market pending resolution of the case.
Administrative Law Judge Daniel J. Davidson accepted the FDA position that chickens treated with Baytril produce resistant bacteria that cause food poisoning that could not be treated by the related human antibiotics.
The decision was hailed by public health groups but was criticized by the trade group representing the makers of veterinary drugs and by Bayer, which plans to appeal.
"We don't feel that the scientific evidence that supports continued use of Baytril in poultry was fully considered," said company spokesman Bob Walker.
Baytril was once popular for treating respiratory problems in chickens, but its use in the United States has declined. The McDonald's fast-food chain has told suppliers to avoid antibiotics.
The FDA's ban of Baytril and SaraFlox, made by Abbott Laboratories, was based on an assessment to determine which animal antibiotics posed the greatest threat to drugs used in human medicine.
Abbott Laboratories agreed to remove its drug from the market, but Bayer argued that its product does not cause measurable antibiotic resistance or harm.
The Animal Health Institute, which represents makers of veterinary drugs, joined the appeal. "We think a compelling scientific case was made that the absence of Baytril to treat sick chickens carries real safety risks that outweighs the theoretical risks of the transmission of resistant bacteria," Vice President Ron Phillips said yesterday.
But the group Keep Antibiotics Working, which includes environmental, consumer and farming groups, applauded the decision.
Coalition member David Wallinga, with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy, said the rate of drug resistance in food poisoning cases remains "disturbingly high."
source: http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn/A64898-2004Mar16?language=printer 17mar04