Mike the Mad Biologist

I recently wrote about the introduction in the House of the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA). This is a really critical piece of legislation that could put a dent in the evolution of resistance. Now, there’s more good news.

Senator Kennedy, along with Republican Senator Olympia Snowe, has introduced a companion bill, S. 619. Again, I can’t stress how important this legislation is. Among other things, it moves the burden of proof to drug manufacturers, forcing them to demonstrate that a drug is vital. It also redefines ‘therapeutic use’ in such a way that it actually means treating sick animals, and only treating sick animals (more at the original post).

This legislation is one of those ‘little bills’ that could save a lot of lives, and reduce the subsidization of agriculture by our healthcare clusterfucksystem (which is what agriculture-derived antibiotic resistance is).

So now you really don’t have an excuse to bug your Senator and ask him or her to support this legislation.

And if you don’t have time to do that, the Union of Concerned Scientists has a simple form that you can use to contact your elected officials.

Comments

  1. #1 Chris
    April 6, 2009

    Just a thought (and I am a DVM so you know where I am coming from) – a banning of the preventive use of antimicrobials will increase food prices as a result of increased disease in the livestock sector. Furthermore, I do worry about the increased bacterial load in carcasses that will result. I am not saying that this bill or your posts are wrong, but the situation is a little more nuanced than your comments imply.

  2. #2 Randy Randy
    April 6, 2009

    Chris wrote, “a banning of the preventive use of antimicrobials will increase food prices”

    This claim is incorrect, and it should perhaps read, “a banning of the preventive use of antimicrobials will increase meat prices”

    Even that claim, however, is questionable. Disease resistance is building up in bacteria in livestock as well, so banning use of preventive antibiotics may make meat more expensive in the short term, but in the long term it may cost the same or be cheaper because of the necessity of developing sustainable breeding practices.

    If meat prices do go up as a result of changes in agricultural practices, then that will possibly shift the dietary habits of Americans away from meat. This change would lower the price of grains as livestock demands decreased.

  3. #3 Chris
    April 6, 2009

    Actually, I did make an incorrect claim – it might increase metat prices. Who knows. That is, in itself, a problem as both sides of this debate are working from a very simple paradigm. The concept that a less meat based diet decreasing the price of grain may or may not be true. The usage of agricultural land is a more complex topic than livestock vs arable. Again, nobody has done the research yet. Randy – can you post the reference from which you got the data about increasing antibiotic resistance in bacterial species of livestock?

  4. #4 Mike the Mad Biologist
    April 6, 2009

    Chris,

    even if your assumption is correct, why should the healthcare system subsidize meat producers? Furthermore, this isn’t an economic issue, but a health issue: we’re trying to preserve the power of antibiotics to treat human illness.

  5. #5 Chris
    April 6, 2009

    Mike – cant respond in detail (as I have a spin finishing soon….). What I guess I haven’t made clear is the fact that I believe antibiotics are overused, by BOTH the agricultural and healthcare systems. These bills just seem to be knee-jerk responses. Sure, they will help up to a point, but we need a more complete response to the issue of antimicrobial resistance. To that end, we need to continue studying this issue.

  6. #6 hat_eater
    April 7, 2009

    To me these bills as about as much knee-jerk response as activating the sprinklers during fire is. Sure, we’ll ruin the furniture. But it would have burned anyway, and the house with it.

  7. #7 Casey
    April 7, 2009

    Being a broke person, I have ordered antibiotics from farm catalogs for myself when I couldn’t afford them from a pharmacy. I sent a copy of my perscription and they were fine with it. I had no problem figuring out the doses myself. It saved me over a hundred dollars getting it that way, as I had to take them for months due to badly diagnosed Lyme. Otherwise, I would never have been able to deal with the problem. And would’ve made a contribution to resistance in that way.
    One thing no one addresses is that doctors themselves often give antibiotics without finding out the cause of a problem. They also tend to give less than is needed these days to get rid of a problem. They also, (see Scientific American’s article on Chlamydia) don’t diagnose a number of diseases because they just don’t think disease is fluid in nature and can live in a number of tissues. They blame patients for the bad judgement they use.
    On the subject of antibiotic resistance, one problem is that somewhere scientists didn’t seem to think that substances from bacteria and molds would be things other bacteria and molds would have resistance to. or trade across species and even families to have. Um, duh. Resistance is going to happen. The main reason to halt antibiotics from being used as much as they are is the runoff in water systems. This causes hormonal problems in a number of species. Which is, by the way, why they are used in agriculture the way they are—not just for disease, but because they cause weight gain quickly.

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