Antibiotics to grow farm animals raise superbug risk

Antibiotics to grow farm animals raise superbug risk


  1. Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported recently that a number of antibiotics manufactured by Zoetis (an American company) are being sold over the counter without a prescription and even directly to farmers in India.

Important Facts:

  1. Zoetis, the largest producer of veterinary medicines, has been supplying Indian farmers with antibiotics for improved growth and yield of farmers.
  2. Banned worldwide:
  • WHO, 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.
  • These are already banned in the EU and U.S.  in an attempt to stem the rising threat of resistance.
  1. It has exposed the double standards of Zoetis (a former subsidiary of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer) which supported the Food and Drug Administration  FDA’s efforts to voluntarily phase out growth promoting antibiotics and   publicly supported new laws in the U.S. banning this abuse of antibiotics as part of its “continued commitment to antibiotic stewardship.
  2. India’s Case:
  • Zoetis is selling Neftin-T, which contains the antibiotic tylosin. It recommends feeding Neftin-T to chickens to improve weight gain and FCR (feed conversion rate).
  • Zoetis continues to sell antibiotics directly to Indian farmers with claims on the company’s Indian website that they will make animals grow bigger and faster.
  • Zoetis has been compensating the dwindling market since the ban last year in USA for its products by increasing the sales in countries where animals are reared for meat e.g.  Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa where consumption of antibiotics has been expected to double betweeen 2010 to 2030.
  • Lax regulation and enforcement: Zoetis sale of Neftin-T is not currently against Indian law although the government has called for it to end and Maharashtra banned the indiscriminate use of antibiotics in agriculture after a Bureau of Investigative Journalism report earlier this year.
  • Chennai Declaration (2013): It called for urgent initiatives to formulate an effective national policy to control the rising antimicrobial resistance, including a ban on over-the-counter sale of antibiotics, and to bring about changes in the medical education curriculum to include training in antibiotic usage and infection control.
  1. Impact of Neftin-T:
  • According to World Health Organisation (WHO), it increases the prevalence of resistant bacteria that can infect humans and cause deadly and untreatable infections.
  • Unnecessarily giving healthy animals antibiotics such as their use to help fatten livestock is fuelling the rise of superbugs, according to WHO.
  • It is estimated 1,00,000 babies a year India die from infections from resistant bugs. Worldwide they’re believed to kill 7 lakh people, according to a British government commissioned review in 2016.
  • Tylosin has been banned for use as a growth promoter in the EU since 1998 because of fears it fuels resistance to erythromycin, which is used to treat chest infections and other human diseases.
  • WHO classifies erythromycin as critically important to human health.


Print Friendly and PDF