Veterinary association sets framework for medicine oversight

The guidelines are intended to lead to consistent regulations throughout Canada

Canadian veterinarians now have a framework for using antibiotics that will assist federal and provincial regulators concerned about antimicrobial resistance (AMR).

The guidelines were developed by the Veterinary Pharmaceutical Stewardship Advisory Group of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, in collaboration with the Canadian Council of Veterinary Registrars (CCVR) and after discussions with government officials and animal health organizations.

“Canadian veterinarians have a national and international responsibility to protect public health by contributing to the fight against antimicrobial resistance,” CVMA president Troy Bourque said. “By working towards harmonizing veterinary oversight of antimicrobial use in Canada, we are optimizing our stewardship practices in animal and public health, maintaining access to and effectiveness of antimicrobials for the treatment and prevention of disease in animals and upholding to the integrity of the veterinary profession.”

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He described the guidelines as a template of professional standards, which may be used by provincial and territorial veterinary regulatory bodies when developing their own regulations, guidelines, or bylaws relating to veterinarians’ professional responsibilities in providing oversight of veterinary antimicrobial use. It is intended to lead to consistent regulations across the country.

The framework spells out the professional obligations for veterinarians in prescribing an antimicrobial drug and comes in advance of federal regulations to increase government oversight of antimicrobials use in food production.

Health Minister Jane Philpott says the government wants to finalize its proposals for reforming the use of antibiotics in livestock production so they would be in effect this fall.

Without change, deaths linked to diseases that become resistant to modern medicines could outstrip those caused by cancer by 2050, she adds.

She did acknowledge that the livestock sector “is ahead of the regulations.”

Her policy lines up with measures animal health and livestock groups have already recommended to reduce AMR.

“We’ll tighten the regulations on the use of antimicrobials in agriculture,” Philpott said.

At the top of her list is ending own-use imports of many veterinary drugs by farmers. She also highlighted requiring prescriptions for all veterinary medicines and ending growth promotional claims. It’s generally expected the changes would come into effect during 2017.

The framework will guide veterinarians in meeting federal regulations when they’re enacted. It covers diagnosing, prescribing, using antimicrobials, dispensing, maintaining medical records and other stewardship requirements, the CVMA says.

In addition, the framework makes recommendations on outstanding issues such as surveillance of antimicrobial use and distribution, and continuing education opportunities for veterinary professionals on antimicrobial stewardship.

The veterinary profession in Canada will continue to be engaged in discussions on the oversight of the use of veterinary antimicrobials at provincial and national levels, Bourque said.

The framework says veterinary oversight is a key element of antimicrobial stewardship.

“It encompasses the professional involvement of licensed veterinarians in providing guidance or direction for appropriate use of antimicrobials in animals with the objective of ensuring prudent use and minimizing the emergence or spread of antimicrobial resistance.”

Vets need to be at the forefront of preventing and controlling the spread of antimicrobial-resistant infections, maintaining access to effective antimicrobials for animal health, improving animal health and welfare, consumer confidence, and public safety and meeting of phytosanitary standards involving trade, the framework says.

Vets are provincially regulated by bodies that are supposed to provide consistent oversight of the prescribing and dispensing of medicines and take action when vets act inappropriately.

The federal plan aims to eliminate unnecessary antimicrobial use, improving standards of use when these drugs are necessary and improving animal health to reduce the need for antimicrobials.

Health Canada says more than three-quarters of antimicrobials are sold for treating animals including pets. “Of these, approximately 90 per cent are used to promote growth or to guard against disease and infection. Globally, the use of antimicrobials in food-producing animals continues to rise, from just over 63,000 tons in 2010 to well over a projected 100,000 tons by 2030. In Canada alone it is estimated that 1.6 million kilograms of antimicrobials were distributed for animal use in 2013.”

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