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Antimicrobials to need vet supervision

New framework will involve veterinarians and feed mills in controlling and tracking drug use

With the Pan-Canadian framework to reduce antimicrobial resistance coming into effect Dec. 1, 2018, veterinarians and feed mill operators are working on plans to reduce the use of medicine used in treating farm livestock as well as to collect the data that shows the progress.

The framework is part of an international campaign to reduce the use of human crucial medicines in treating livestock and companion animals to try to slow the spread of antimicrobial resistance (AMR.) Without action, the World Health Organization fears 10 million people could die annually by 2050 from diseases resistant to existing medicines, surpassing deaths from cancer.

The framework will allow medicines to be administered to livestock under veterinary supervision, and end the importation of antimicrobial drugs to treat sick animals. To make that approach work, feed mills need to be involved so they supply treated feed only when needed.

Duane Landals, past-president of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA), said in an interview that vets, feed mill representatives, commodity groups and government officials discussed how to bring the changes about during a recent Ottawa workshop. “We have reached a common goal on how the new system should operate,” he said.

However, making the system work smoothly will require a lot of work on collecting data on the use of medicine usage and educating vets and producers on the new system.

“We have already seen reductions in the use of medicine in livestock production as farmers respond to what processors and retailers want,” he said.

Once funding is secured for a data-collection model, a number of veterinary firms have offered to test drive the system with clients, he said. No timeline for this step has been set although the Dec. 1 deadline gives the vets and feed mills a goal to work toward.

“The workshop participants all agreed that we’d work together to move this project forward,” Landals said. There is also a lot of work to be done on the use of medicine in livestock production and ensuring farmers have medicated feed when they need it.

Later this year Health Canada is to announce specific commitments and measurable outcomes for the Pan-Canadian framework. Health Canada says antimicrobials “are an essential tool against infections in both humans and animals, but they are losing their effectiveness more quickly than we are identifying and developing new drugs or other treatments.”

The new framework will allow manufacturers to import and sell low-risk veterinary health products such as vitamin and mineral supplements, for companion and food-producing animals. These treatments can keep animals healthy and may reduce the need for antimicrobials, it said.

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