December 7, 2017

Resistance and Responsibility: Working with CAHI to mitigate risks between human AMR and antibiotic use in animals

There’s no denying it: since the discovery of penicillin in the 1920s ushered in the antibiotic age as we know it, antimicrobials have been used to treat both humans and animals with staggering success. But there’s also no way to deny another staggering fact: as our use of antimicrobials has increased, so has resistance to these drugs. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is widely regarded as one of the biggest threats to human health the world is currently facing. And we’ve all got a hand in it.

In May of 2017, Health Canada announced a number of changes to the Food and Drug Regulations, in a move that has already changed the landscape of veterinary antimicrobial drugs.

Increased Awareness, Increased Responsibility

The Canadian Animal Health Institute (CAHI) and the Animal Nutrition Association of Canada are working together to ensure awareness of these changes across all levels of animal health. As animal pharmaceutical companies work to update their labels to reflect the shift from OTC to prescription drug status, CAHI members will work with their customers to manage their inventory accordingly.

Jean Szkotnicki, president of CAHI, says that, while generally speaking, the evidence indicates the contribution of antimicrobial use in animals to human resistance is about 5%, “the important thing is that we want to have responsible use, and not be using antimicrobials to mask poor production protocols.” Moving medically important antimicrobials to prescription drug status and removing growth promotion claims from these same products, has an added bonus for the health of the animals. “These changes provide veterinary oversight,” says Szkotnicki, “requiring producers to establish a vet/client/patient relationship.”

“Contains Antimicrobial, Use Responsibly” Logo

As part of the overall framework to combatting AMR, CAHI asked WS to help them create a logo for voluntary label use on medically important antimicrobials. This logo helps CAHI and its members to facilitate the easy recognition of medically important antimicrobial products by veterinarians and animal care providers, and communicates key messages regarding the responsible use of medically important antimicrobials.

Changes on the Horizon

Medically important antimicrobials are those drugs that are classified as essential for the treatment of serious and life-threatening infections and those that have limited or no alternatives for treatment available in humans.

These drugs are grouped into categories based on this specific set of criteria. A Category I drug, for example, is the preferred choice for serious human infections, and has limited or no alternatives for treatment available.

As of December 1, 2018, a veterinary prescription will be needed to use medically important antimicrobials. These 340 drugs will no longer be available for purchase at livestock medicines outlets, co-operatives, or other places where over-the-counter animal medications are sold. Medically important antimicrobials will only be available, with a veterinary prescription, from a veterinarian, pharmacist or as a mixed medicated feed from a feed mill. The manufacturers of veterinary drugs are also voluntarily removing all growth promotion claims from their antimicrobial products.

In addition, as of November 13, 2017, Category I, II and III antimicrobials can no longer be imported for own use.

For more information on these changes, please visit