Revealed: world’s largest animal drugs company sells antibiotics to Indian farms to fatten livestock despite superbug risk

The world’s largest animal drugs company has been accused of double standards and of fueling the development of ‘superbugs’ by selling antibiotics to farmers in India for purposes now banned in Europe and the United States.

Zoetis, a former subsidiary of the drugs giant Pfizer, is supplying farmers in India with antibiotics to help them artificially fatten up livestock including chickens.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has called for the practice to be banned worldwide because it increases the prevalence of drug-resistant bacteria that can infect humans and cause deadly and untreatable infections.

The American company stopped advertising antibiotics as growth promoters to American farmers nearly two years ago and publicly supported new US laws banning the use of antibiotics to fatten livestock as part of its “continued commitment to antibiotic stewardship”.

However, Zoetis is continuing to sell antibiotics directly to Indian farmers with claims on the company’s Indian website that it will make animals grow bigger and faster. It is able to do so because the practice – although frowned on by the Indian authorities –  is not illegal in India.

Dr Abdul Ghafur, a professor in infectious diseases who brought together medical societies and the Indian government in 2012 to create a plan to tackle antibiotic resistance, known as the Chennai Declaration, said Zoetis is using “double standards”.

“If an American company follows one policy in America, they should follow the same policy in India,” he said.

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Dr Thomas Van Boeckel, a researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) who has mapped antibiotic use in agriculture, said: “It is blatantly clear that Zoetis is using a double standard in the way it is willing to expose consumers in India to higher levels of risk than in the United States.”

Zoetis says it complies with the law in each location where it operates.

The unnecessary use of antibiotics in agriculture, such as their use to make animals grow faster rather than treat disease, are major contributors to growing levels of resistant bacteria or so called superbugs.

It is estimated 100,000 babies a year in India die from infections caused by resistant bugs. Worldwide they’re believed to kill 700,000 people, according to a British government-commissioned review in 2016. WHO has called antibiotic resistance one of the greatest threats to public health globally.

Zoetis has previously said it is “a leader in providing ongoing education to veterinarians and livestock producers on the proper use of antimicrobial drugs”.

When asked last month why it continued to sell antibiotics for growth promotion in India it said it did not believe it was causing harm.

It said that when used “properly and responsibly according to their approved indications” and “under the supervision of a veterinary professional” its products do not contribute to drug resistance and do not pose a threat to public health.

Others disagree. The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) have called for a worldwide ban on the use of antibiotics to fatten farm animals in an attempt to stem the rising threat of resistance.

They – like the WHO –  say that unnecessarily giving healthy animals antibiotics is fuelling the rise of superbugs.

Source: Yahoo News

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