The U.S. Food and Drug Administration should consider issuing a rule to increase data collection on the use of medically important antibiotics in agriculture and work with veterinarians and industry to develop a plan to collect data on how antibiotics are used on farms, Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said this week.
The Senators said data currently collected do not allow public health agencies to study trends in the use of antibiotics in different food-producing animal species.
Improving data collection on antibiotic sales and distribution, they said, would allow FDA to begin to estimate species-specific antibiotic use.
The data could inform other projects, they said, like evaluating the effectiveness of FDA's judicious antibiotic use policy, introduced last year, and President Obama's National Strategy for Combatting Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria.
Under the FDA use policy, medically important antimicrobials used to enhance growth or improve feed efficiency in food animals is no longer permitted, and veterinary oversight of the remaining appropriate therapeutic uses of such drugs is phased in.
The National Strategy was announced in September. It included a plan of action and Executive Order directing key Federal departments and agencies to take action to combat antibiotic-resistant bacteria. A special task force to address the issue was recently compiled.
"Given the president's national strategy, it is our view that you should expeditiously propose a rule to improve antibiotic distribution data collection," the senators wrote to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg.
"Data on antibiotic use and resistance enables federal agencies to take action to protect the public health and supports research into better understanding complex questions related to the development of antibiotic resistance and potential links to human health," they wrote.
"Furthermore, data regarding the distribution of medically important antibiotics is needed to monitor the impact of your new policies aimed at eliminating the injudicious use of these drugs in agriculture," the letter added.
Sens. Gillibrand and Feinstein, along with Susan Collins, R-Maine, last year urged the FDA to increase transparency in data collection, proposing legislation to require a pilot program to look into new data sources on antibiotics used on food producing animals. It has not moved on for consideration by the full Senate.
In September, 2014, a similar set of Senators – Feinstein, Gillibrand and Warren – asked President Obama to ensure $15 million in funding for the National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System in fiscal year 2016.
Increasing funding, they said, would enhance the program and improve the FDA's ability to study antibiotic resistance.