Bayer Corporation Urged to Drop Poultry Antibiotic
PITTSBURGH, PA - Citing new scientific data, the Keep Antibiotics Working campaign today hand delivered 16,000 letters from concerned citizens to the Bayer Corporation, urging the company to stop resisting a proposed ban on using Cipro like drugs in poultry.
For two years, Bayer has opposed the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) efforts to bar the use of certain antibiotics in livestock. The FDA has proposed the ban due to concerns that the agricultural use of antibiotics that are related to common drugs used in humans may hasten the development of drug resistant bacteria.
New preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) bolster the FDA's case that continued use of Bayer's fluoroquinolone antibiotic, Baytril, in poultry flocks is undercutting the effectiveness of the similar drug ciprofloxacin (Cipro) against the most common cause of severe food poisoning, campylobacter bacteria. The FDA believes that people eating poultry treated with Baytril are at greater risk for contracting Cipro resistant campylobacter, which is a common contaminant on store bought chicken.
Cipro is a key drug in treating campylobacter food poisoning, which causes an estimated two million illnesses and 100 deaths a year.
"This new CDC data show that antibiotic resistance to Cipro in treating the most common cause of severe food poisoning jumped from 14 to 19 percent last year and has increased four of the last five years," said Dr. Rebecca Goldburg, a senior scientist for the conservation group Environmental Defense, as she delivered the 16,000 letters at Bayer's headquarters.
"This new data give even greater urgency to the American Medical Association's recommendation that Bayer should stop fighting the FDA's proposed ban, and stop playing chicken with the public's health," Goldburg added.
The new CDC data on campylobacter resistance will be presented Wednesday at the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring Systems 2002 Annual Scientific Meeting in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. Six of the top 19 U.S. poultry producers say they no longer use fluoroquinolones in chickens produced for human consumption, including Tyson Foods, Gold Kist, ConAgra Poultry, Perdue Farms, Foster Farms and Claxton.
"We call on Bayer to practice what it preaches in its slogan, 'Expertise With Responsibility'," said Dr. Richard Michaels, the former chief of infectious disease at the University of Pittsburgh's Children's Hospital.
Michaels, also a member of the steering committee for the Pittsburgh area chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility, noted that the only other maker of fluoroquinolones for poultry, Abbott Laboratories, has respected the FDA proposed ban since it was issued in October 2000.
"Bayer should follow Abbott's lead, drop its two year challenge to the FDA's proposed ban and immediately pull Baytril from the poultry market," Michaels concluded.
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