Medical, consumer groups urge Congress to act on antibiotic resistance

A coalition of medical and consumer advocacy groups is urging lawmakers to curtail the use of antibiotics in farm animals as federal regulators prepare to propose new restrictions.

A dozen groups, including the American Academy of Pediatrics and the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases, wrote to lawmakers on Tuesday to bemoan the "misinformation and confusion" about the impact farm use of antibiotics can have on human health. The groups will also run an ad in congressional newspapers on Wednesday urging lawmakers to allow new restrictions.

"Antibiotic-resistant infections claim tens of thousands of American lives each year and significantly drive up our health costs," the ad says. "It's time for Congress, the White House and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to act decisively to protect our life-saving antibiotics so they work for sick people."

The ad comes as the FDA is finalizing voluntary guidance that is expected to say that animal growth promotion is not a judicious use of antibiotics. While not binding, FDA guidance is usually followed by industry.

Drugmakers and the food industry say using antibiotics to keep farm animals healthy does not put the public at risk. Some Republican lawmakers led by Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-Mont.) have tried to head off tougher regulatory restrictions by requiring FDA to abide by so-called "hard science," and the advocates are worried that lawmakers could derail regulators' efforts.