Drugmakers sold 11.17 million kilograms (24.6 million pounds) of antibiotics for use in cattle, hogs, and poultry last year, up 4% from 2021 and the second increase in two years, said the Food and Drug Administration on Thursday. Despite the increases, sales are much lower now than they were before the FDA banned the use of antimicrobials to promote weight gain in food-bearing animals.
Restricting the use of antibiotics was part of a government-wide drive to preserve the efficacy of antibiotics for treating disease in humans. Beginning in 2017, the FDA required veterinary oversight of the use of antibiotics to prevent or treat disease in food animals. Six months ago, an FDA rule took effect that ended over-the-counter sales of so-called medically important antibiotics for use in livestock.
Some 56% of 2022 sales were antibiotics deemed medically important; the total of 6.24 million kilograms was the highest in six years. Sales of antibiotics considered not medically important fell 190,000 kilograms in 2022. Tetracyclines, a class of medically important drugs, accounted for 36% of all antibiotic sales, and ionophores, deemed not medically important, accounted for 37%.
The peak year for sales of antibiotics for food animals was 2015, when 15.58 million kilograms were sold. The FDA tracks the sale of antibiotics for livestock but not the actual use of the drugs.
The FDA’s 2022 “Summary Report on Antimicrobials Sold or Distributed for Use in Food-Producing Animals” is available here.