Farmers no longer allowed to buy animal antibiotics over the counter

New federal rules aimed at combating a growing global health risk will require farmers to get a veterinary prescription before purchasing antibiotics for their animals.

The regulations, which come into effect Saturday, mean agricultural producers will no longer be able to buy antibiotic drugs over the counter at their local farm supply store. About 300 products — including tetracyclines, penicillins and other drugs used to treat common animal ailments like foot rot, pink-eye, and respiratory infections — are affected by the new rules.

The move is part of a broader government effort to enforce more stringent control and oversight of antibiotic use, as much in humans as in animals.

Science has proven repeated exposure to an antibiotic can lead bacteria to become resistant to that drug, rendering it useless. There is already evidence this is happening, with drug-resistant infections popping up in both humans and animals around the globe. The World Health Organization has called antibiotic resistance a “global crisis,” warning that if these drugs lose their effectiveness, many common infections, such as strep throat, could become life-threatening and the success of major surgery and cancer chemotherapy would be compromised.

“The measures that are being taken today are just the start,” said Keith Lehman, chief provincial veterinarian for the province of Alberta. “We will have to continue to analyze this and see what measures we can take to preserve the use of these antibiotics for as long as possible.”

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, approximately 80 per cent of medically important antibiotics sold in Canada go toward livestock use. Critics contend the improper use of some of these products is contributing to antibiotic resistance. On poultry farms, beef feedlots and in hog barns, animals are given antibiotics not only to treat illnesses but sometimes to prevent disease before it starts. Certain types of antimicrobials are also added to animal feed to promote growth and improve overall efficiency of livestock production.

Lehman said while many farmers already work closely with veterinarians to diagnose illnesses and treat animals, there are some who prefer to go it alone — misusing antibiotics as a result.

Source: Calgary Herrald

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