American farmers would be forced to get prescriptions for livestock antibiotics under a plan developed in Denmark and promoted by infectious disease doctors to stem a rising tide of drug-resistant infections in people.
Resistant infections cost the U.S. more than $20 billion annually, according to a 2009 study in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. By following a method used in Denmark that tracks data on livestock antibiotics, the U.S. may thwart resistance, said Lindsay Grayson, chief of the Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.
“My main advice for the U.S. is that all antibiotics used on animals should be given only with a prescription,” said Henrik Caspar Wegener, the director of the National Food Institute in Denmark. “That’s not the case at the moment. Antibiotics are medicines. They should be prescribed by someone educated to make that decision.”
Wegener spoke yesterday during a panel session at the conference in Chicago. Though the data is rough, the U.S. uses about six times more antibiotics than Denmark to produce about 2.2 pounds of meat, Wegener said in his presentation.
While Liz Wagstrom, chief veterinarian at the National Pork Producers Council, echoed the call for more surveillance, she said requiring prescriptions would be more difficult here than in Denmark, a country that’s smaller than the state of Iowa. The U.S.’s larger size and less homogeneous population make tracking efforts more complex, she said.