Move along, nothing to see here, these aren't the droids you're looking for. Of course.
According to the radio program, Agritalk, the National Pork Producers Council said Slaughter's bill PAMTA "would be detrimental to the health and wellbeing of pigs, would increase production costs and the price consumers pay for pork, and could jeopardize public health." The President of the NPPC added that the bill is "irresponsible." Nice.
Mr. President, today we face growing concerns about infectious disease which few could have anticipated. Over a half century ago, following the development of modern antibiotics, Nobel Laureate Sir McFarland Burnet summed up what many experts believed when he stated, "One can think of the middle of the twentieth century as the end of one of the most important social revolutions in history, the virtual elimination of infectious diseases as a significant factor in social life".
How things have changed! Today many of the world's greatest killers are infectious diseases--including HIV, tuberculosis, malaria--and increasingly our Nation is susceptible. We have concerns about both natural pandemics--such as those caused by influenza--as well as manmade threats.
At the same time that the threat has grown, we have seen an alarming trend as existing antibiotics are becoming less effective in treating infections. We know that resistance to drugs can be developed, and that the more we expose bacteria to antibiotics, the more resistance we will see. So it is critical to address preserving the lifesaving antibiotic drugs we have today so that they will be of use in treating disease when they are needed.
Today over 9 out of 10 Americans understand that resistance to antibiotics is a problem. Most Americans have learned that colds and flu are caused by viruses, and recognize that treating a cold with an antibiotic is inappropriate. Our health care providers are more careful to discriminate when to use antibiotics, because they know that when a patient who has been inappropriately prescribed an antibiotic actually develops a bacterial infection, it is more likely to be resistant to treatment.
When we overuse antibiotics, we risk eliminating the very cures which scientists fought so hard to develop. The threat of bioterrorism amplifies the danger. We have supported increased NIH research funding, as well as bioshield legislation, in order to promote development of essential drugs, both to address natural and manmade threats. It is so counterproductive to develop antimicrobial drugs and see their misuse render them ineffective.
Yet every day in America antibiotics continue to be used in huge quantities when there is no disease present to treat. I am speaking of the nontherapeutic use of antibiotics in agriculture. Simply put, the practice of feeding antibiotics to healthy animals jeopardizes the effectiveness of these medicines in treating ill people and animals.
Recognizing the public health threat caused by antibiotic resistance, Congress in 2000 amended the Public Health Threats and Emergencies Act to curb antibiotic overuse in human medicine. Yet today, it is estimated that 70 percent of the antimicrobials used in the United States are fed to farm animals for nontherapeutic purposes including growth promotion, poor management practices and crowded, unsanitary conditions.
In March 2003, the National Academies of Sciences stated that a decrease in antimicrobial use in human medicine alone will not solve the problem of drug resistance. Substantial efforts must be made to decrease inappropriate overuse of antibiotics in animals and agriculture.
Four years ago five major medical and environmental groups--the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Public Health Association, Environmental Defense, the Food Animal Concerns Trust and the Union of Concerned Scientists--jointly filed a formal regulatory petition with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration urging the agency to withdraw approvals for seven classes of antibiotics which are used as agricultural feed additives. They pointed out what we have known for years--that antibiotics which are crucial to treating human disease should never be used except for their intended purpose--to treat disease.
In a study reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found 17 percent of drug-resistant staph infections had no apparent links to health-care settings. Nearly one in five of these resistant infections arose in the community--not in the health care setting. While must do more to address inappropriate antibiotic use in medicine, the use of these drugs in our environment cannot be ignored.
Most distressingly, we have seen the USDA issue a fact sheet on the recently recognized link between antimicrobial drug use in animals and the methicillin resistant staphylococcus aureas, MRSA, infections in humans. These infections literally threaten life and limb!
So it should be clear why I have joined with Senator Kennedy in again introducing the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act. Senator Kennedy is truly a champion of public health and understands how critical it is to preserve the drugs we must have in our arsenal to combat infectious diseases. I am honored to join with him in an effort to preserve vital drugs and reduce the development of drug-resistant organisms which threaten human health.
This bill phases out the nontherapeutic uses of critical medically important antibiotics in livestock and poultry production, unless their manufacturers can show that they pose no danger to public health.
Our legislation requires the Food and Drug Administration to withdraw the approval for nontherapeutic agricultural use of antibiotics in food-producing animals if the antibiotic is used for treating human disease, unless the application is proven harmless within 2 years. The same tough standard of safety will apply to new applications for approval of animal antibiotics.
This legislation places no unreasonable burden on producers. It does not restrict the use of antibiotics to treat sick animals, or for that matter to treat pets and other animals not used for food.
As we are constantly reminded, the discovery and development of a new drug can require great time and expense. It is simply common sense that we preserve the use of the drugs which we already have, and use them appropriately. I call on my colleagues to support us in this effort.