Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Government Misplaces Priorities Again

Business beats people’s needs in battle over bugs

At least the Feds are consistent—supporting business rather than the public. In this case the FDA is prepared to allow the use of an antibiotic called Cefquinome in animals—this, despite the strong warnings and opposition from its own advisory board, from infectious disease experts, and from other highly respected groups, such as the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The Infectious Diseases Society has previously called attention to growing problem of antibiotic resistant organisms in “Bad Bugs, No Drugs.” At the same time as there is increasing resistance, most pharmaceutical companies have withdrawn from the antibiotic development business, and there are very few new antibiotics in the pipeline. Cefquinome, like the already-marketed cefepime, is in the “4th generation cephalosporin” class of antibiotics, a class generally reserved for use in serious infections with resistant bacteria.

The FDA’s guidance #152 is quite narrow and allows use of antibiotics in animals unless it can be shown to be harmful only to patients with food-borne diseases. In contrast, the World Health Organization recommends against such approval if there is likely to be resistance for any serious human disease.

If history repeats itself, the use of cefquinome in animals will rapidly result in bacteria resistant to cefquinome infecting people, as has happened with other antibiotics.

With there being so few antibiotics available, it is foolish to squander our limited resources, putting the public at risk. This is yet another demonstration of this government’s pattern of listening to money rather than reason, ignoring its own expert advisors, and wasting dwindling resources.