The sales of antibiotics used to treat, prevent and control disease and maintain animal health rose 7.5 percent in 2004, according to data provided by the research-based companies that produce animal medicines.

In 2004, 21.7 million pounds of antibiotics were sold for use in farm and companion animals, an increase from 20.2 million pounds sold in 2002. Antibiotic production has tended down since 1999, when 24.4 million pounds were sold. The data was collected from a survey of members of the Animal Health Institute. As antibiotic use has decline, meat production has increased, indicating greater efficiencies being gained by livestock producers.

“Antibiotic use in animals is a function of the number of animals and the scope of disease outbreaks producers must deal with in their flocks and herds,” says Alexander Mathews, AHI president and chief executive officer. “Without these important life-saving productions, death and suffering among livestock, poultry and companion animals would increase.”

AHI survey respondents provide an assessment each year of the amount of veterinary antibiotics sold for therapeutic use and health maintenance purposes. The percentage of veterinary antibiotics sales reported as therapeutic was 83 percent in 2001, and has risen each year since, to 91 percent in 2003, 92 percent in 2003 and 95 percent in 2004.

“This data stands in stark contrast to the estimates some have offered regarding antibiotic use,” says Mathews. The 5 percent use attributed to health maintenance represents 1,175,226 pounds of use. Of that amount, 758,969 pounds are compounds with little or no use in human medicine, including ionophores and arsenicals. The remaining 416,257 pounds of use are comprised of four compounds, all of which have been or are being evaluated by risk assessments.

“Antibiotics are being used carefully and judiciously to protect both animal and human health,” says Mathews. “Risk assessment efforts and resources have been prioritized to address those compounds of greatest concern. To date, those risk assessments have shown miniscule levels of risk that are far outweighed by the benefits to animal and human health.”

Animal Health Institute