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Farm Animals Hog 80 Percent of U.S. Antibiotics

The overuse of antibiotics can lead to drug-resistant superbugs, so it’s cause for concern to the folks at Johns Hopkins’ Center for a Livable Future that the vast majority of bug-killing drugs aren’t even consumed by sick humans.

Center for a Livable Future via Wired:

In accordance with a 2008 amendment to the Animal Drug User Fee Act, for the first time the FDA released last week an annual amount of antimicrobial drugs sold and distributed for use in food animals. The grand total for 2009 is 13.1 million kilograms or 28.8 million pounds. I found the stories covering this revelation interesting, but they did not convey the whole picture. It is important to understand how this amount compares to the total available for people. So, I decided to find out for myself and contacted the FDA for an estimate of the volume of antibiotics sold for human use in 2009. This is what a spokesperson told me:

“Our Office of Surveillance and Epidemiology just finished an analysis based on IMS Health data. Sales data in kilograms sold for selected antibacterial drugs were obtained as a surrogate of human antibacterial drug use in the U.S. market. Approximately 3.3 million kilograms of antibacterial drugs were sold in year 2009. OSE states that all data in this analysis have been cleared for public use by IMS Health, IMS National Sales Perspectives™.”

3.3 million kilograms is a little over 7 million pounds. As far as I can determine, this is the first time the FDA has made data on estimates of human usage public. Below is a breakdown of the FDA numbers prepared by my colleague, Dr. David Love, also from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future, which compares the estimated amounts of human usage with food animal usage.

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