The Food and Drug Administration is trying to slow the rise of drug-resistant super bugs by reducing antibiotic use in livestock. The agency will now require farmers and ranchers to obtain a prescription from a veterinarian before they can give antibiotics to animals, reports the New York Times. Close to 80% of antibiotics sold in the US go to animals, and the FDA wants farmers to stop using them simply to make animals grow larger. It has asked companies to start phasing out their non-medical use.
"Hospital-acquired infections, mainly from drug-resistant strains of bacteria, cause some 2 million illnesses and 90,000 deaths in the US each year," FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said in a statement. "The new strategy will ensure farmers and veterinarians can care for animals while ensuring the medicines people need remain safe and effective." Asking farmers to voluntarily phase out the non-medical use of antibiotics will be faster than a ban, which would require a separate court hearing for each of hundreds of drugs, according to the agency.