In 2017 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) removed the ability for producers to feed antibiotics, of human importance, as a growth promotant. Likewise, a Veterinary Feed Directive must be obtained from a veterinarian in order to put antibiotics into feed or purchase feed containing antibiotics. This was done to reduce the amount of antibiotics fed to animals with the intent of reducing bacterial resistance to antibiotics. These actions reduced the amount of antibiotics in animal feeds and placed veterinary oversight of antibiotic usage in feed but left over-the-counter antibiotic use without supervision. To close that loophole, the FDA published Guidance for Industry #263, which will remove over-the-counter access to many antibiotics, which will go into effect June 11 2023.

Prescription drugs, for example, Nuflor®, have a label that states: "Caution: Federal law restricts this drug to use by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian." Once Guidance 263 goes into effect on June 11 2023, this statement will be placed on most over-the-counter antibiotics, meaning one will be required to have a prescription from a veterinarian in order to purchase them.

The current over-the-counter drugs that will require a prescription in the future are:

  • Oxytetracyclines: injectables and boluses. Examples Liquamycin LA-200®, Noromycin 300 LA®, Terramycin Scour tablets®.
  • Penicillins (Procaine Penicillin G, Benzathine Penicillin G). Examples, Pro-Pen-G®, Penicillin Injectable®, Dura-Pen®. Intramammary tubes:  Albadry Plus®
  • Sulfa-based antimicrobials (Sulfamethoxine, sulfamethazine). Examples, Injectables: Di-Methox 40%®, SulfMed 40%®. Boluses: Albon®, Sustain III Cattle and Calf® boluses.
  • Tylosin. Example, Tylan 50®, Tylan 200®
  • Cephapirin, cephapirin benzathine. Mastitis tubes Examples, ToDAY®, ToMORROW®

These products are not being removed from the marketplace, but instead are being brought under veterinary supervision as the feed-grade antibiotics were in 2017. In order for a veterinarian to write a prescription, a veterinary client-patient relationship (VCPR) must exist.

There are several requirements that must exist in order to establish a VCPR. From a producer's standpoint, the major requirement is that the veterinarian must have sufficient knowledge of the herd or flock to initiate at least a general or preliminary diagnosis of the medical condition of the animal. Essentially, a veterinarian must have been to your property, looked at your animals and is familiar with your management system before he/she can write a prescription for you. It should be noted that:

  • You are not required to buy antibiotics from the veterinarian.
  • You will be able to order antibiotics through catalogs and at local farm stores if the stores decide to continue to shelve those products.
  • Antiparasitic products, nutritional supplements, prebiotics, and topical non-antibiotic treatments will not be affected and will continue to be available.

Producers need to seek out and establish a VCPR with a veterinarian if one has not already been established. Having a relationship with a veterinarian will help ensure the correct antibiotics are being used for a particular condition which should result in more efficient use of antibiotics and money as well as a better treatment outcome. Likewise, by having a VCPR, the veterinarian can make recommendations for preventing disease thus reducing the need for treatments and its associated costs.

Now is NOT the time to "stock up" on over-the-counter products to avoid needing a prescription. Animal products have expiration dates and are sensitive to storage time and conditions. Purchasing products now may result in those products expiring, resulting in wastage of products and money.

Kevin D. Pelzer, professor, production management medicine/epidemiology, Department of Large Animal Clinical Sciences.

More information