Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) continues to be an important topic for us at Zoetis, as well as for our customers and other stakeholders, and it’s why we strongly support the responsible use of antibiotic medicines in animals and in people. With no alternatives today for treating life-threatening bacterial infections in animals, antibiotics are essential to animal health and, in turn, to their welfare. We support and promote responsible use in many ways across our business and through interactions with our customers as well as other stakeholders, and we’re proud of the progress we’ve made – and are continuing to make.
In the two years leading up to FDA’s Guidance for Industry 213 and Veterinary Feed Directive implementation on January 1, 2017, Zoetis veterinarians conducted hundreds of educational meetings with U.S. livestock farmers and veterinarians to help them prepare for the removal of growth promotion claims in feed and water products containing medically important antibiotics. Zoetis voluntarily removed growth promotion claims for medically important antibiotics (per FDA definition) in the US, EU, and Canada. In June 2020, we also removed growth promotion claims in India, the last country in which our growth promotion claims were still in use.
With changes in regulation and increased veterinary oversight, total sales of animal antibiotics have decreased over the years in Europe (43% less from 2011-2020) and the U.S. (38% less from 2015-2020). And global use is down by nearly 1/3rd, with the largest reductions occurring in critically important antimicrobials, according to the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH). It’s important to note that although sales can offer an indicator of trends in antimicrobial use, it cannot measure whether AMR is rising or falling.
As we live our purpose to nurture the world and humankind by advancing care for animals, we are focused on improving animal health and reducing the need to use antibiotics. The animal health sector shared its ‘Roadmap to Reducing the Need for Antibiotics’, which outlined how countries improve prevention, diagnosis and treatment of animal disease to reduce antibiotic need, and it included 25 measurable commitments that the industry pledged to complete by 2025, such as delivering 50 new vaccines, investing in veterinary training and more. The 2021 Roadmap Progress Report showed the animal health sector is on track or ahead of schedule on all 25 commitments. The next progress report will be issued in 2023.
At Zoetis, we are advocating, innovating and collaborating to make further progress in antibiotic stewardship and responsible use in animals.
Advocating for the health of animals and veterinary involvement
We advocate for the health of animals and for the veterinarians and livestock farmers who care for them. Across the globe, our veterinary technical services teams help our customers understand proper indications, dosages, routes of administration and the importance of withdrawal periods.
In the U.S., we support FDA’s plans (Guidance for Industry 263) to transition all remaining Over the Counter (OTC) products containing medically important antibiotics to prescription status by June 2023. We are committed to supporting our customers through the transition period to help ensure the health and well-being of the animals in their care. And for the past decade or so, our U.S. Cattle and Pork teams have provided training resources in English and Spanish for dairy, beef and pork producers and their employees to help ensure responsible use.
In the E.U., our multi-stakeholder efforts, such as EPRUMA (The European Platform for the Responsible Using of Medicines in Animals) in which we are actively involved via our industry trade association AnimalhealthEurope, are continuing to promote best-practice frameworks for the responsible use of veterinary medicines to ensure better prevention and control of animal diseases and to reduce the need to use antibiotics.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, where policies are still in development, we support our customers with educational and technical resources to improve the health of their animals. As an example, through our African Livestock Productivity and Health Advancement (A.L.P.H.A.) initiative, we have trained more than 26,000 farmers, veterinarians, para-veterinarians, distributors and lab personnel over 1,063 training days since 2017, with a target to train over 100,000 by 2025.
Innovating with a focus on prevention
Overall, the animal health sector is investing billions in R&D for new technologies across vaccines, diagnostics, digital technologies and more that can dramatically improve the health of animals. Deploying these tools in more markets can reduce disease levels and the need to use antibiotics. However, this can only occur when tools reach animals in need. We are ready to work with countries to ensure the necessary infrastructure and regulatory systems are in place to facilitate this veterinary care.
At Zoetis, we are investing in research and development across a “continuum of care” to provide our customers with new and enhanced solutions to better predict, prevent, detect and treat disease in their animals. We support reducing the need to use antibiotics by encouraging a preventative approach through good animal husbandry, nutrition, vaccination programs, and our programs emphasize helping our customers prevent disease – through vaccines targeted against viral and bacterial pathogens, for example – which can help reduce the need to use antibiotics for treatment. We’re also exploring additional diagnostics, immunomodulators, and other pathways, as well as precision animal health tools including genetic tests plus digital technologies and data analytics that can help livestock producers make earlier and more informed healthcare decisions for their animals.
Despite the best of preventative care, disease can still occur, and treatment may be needed. To ensure viable treatment options for veterinary use, our scientists are looking for new classes of antibiotics for veterinary use only and novel, non-antibiotic anti-infective solutions. As an example, in 2019 together with Colorado State University, we established an Incubator Research Lab where we are exploring the livestock immune system for potential biotherapies that could pave the way for alternatives to antibiotics in livestock. That research has resulted in substrate advancing to our R&D pipeline, though we’re still years away from a new product.
Today, two of our Driven to Care sustainability goals are related to AMR, and we continue to make progress on promoting responsible use and reducing the need to use antibiotics. Our innovation leads the way, including developing vaccines against bacterial diseases that can help livestock producers prevent disease and reduce the need to eventually treat that disease with an antibiotic. In Spain, our Vet Cloud platform helps swine producers share data and enable health monitoring by their veterinarian. In Europe, Zoetis is introducing Mastigram+ diagnostic testing to help dairy farmers detect and better understand bacterial infections and thus determine the best therapeutic solution.
In the U.S., we received recent approval for a cattle vaccine against M. bovis, a common bovine respiratory disease pathogen, as well as another in-ovo vaccine for poultry. These vaccines help livestock producers prevent disease through vaccination and potentially reduce the need to treat disease with an antibiotic later. We’re also investing in digital innovation such as our BLOCKYARD technology that can help U.S. cattle producers capture and share their cattle health information to the value chain. And, improving genetics through the use of genomic tools can help dairy farmers raise healthier cows that may require 44% less antibiotics over their lifetime.
Collaborating across the value chain and beyond
Antibiotics are shared resources, and we recognize the importance of collaborating in a One Health approach, working with leaders from the veterinary and human health professions, food industry, and public health to advance the responsible use of antibiotics across all sectors.
Our AMR surveillance monitoring program – now in its 25th year – is one way we collaborate to ensure antibiotics remain effective for decades to come. Beginning in 1998 with bovine and swine respiratory disease (SRD) pathogens, our program has grown to include bovine mastitis pathogens, equine pathogens, and most recently canine and feline pathogens. We test bacterial pathogens isolated from animals cultured from farms, feed-lots, veterinary diagnostic and veterinary clinics. In total, our program studies 29 bacterial pathogens from 5 animal species thanks to the collaboration of 32 veterinary diagnostic laboratories and numerous veterinarians and livestock owners from across the U.S. and Canada. In a recent publication from our AMR surveillance monitoring program, our scientists noted SRD program resistance is not increasing, and they are seeing no changes in susceptibility against our anti-microbials.1
In addition, Zoetis has ongoing conversations with food chain companies to provide transparency and knowledge about animal health, well-being and the role of healthy animals in a safe and sustainable food supply. As the only animal health company involved, we also collaborate with food companies and human health-related companies through the cross-industry BCUN (Business Council of the United Nations) on AMR. Zoetis was also the only animal health company to participate in the Reagan-Udall Foundation for the FDA’s partnership with the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM). This collaboration explored the development of a public-private partnership framework for collecting and analyzing real-world data regarding antimicrobial use in food-producing animals.
To further advance research, we also support ICASA (International Consortium on Antimicrobial Stewardship in Agriculture) to understand disease drivers in livestock so that the industry can continue to reduce the incidence of disease and the subsequent need to use antibiotics. The collective investment in research is expected to yield practical solutions, such as new technologies and management practices that raise healthier, more productive livestock, improve animal welfare, and promote responsible use of antibiotics. In Brazil, we work through Alianca to provide educational content and training to veterinarians on responsible use of antibiotics.
These current collaborations build on our previous participation in other One Health initiatives together with a variety of stakeholders including major food retailers and producers. These have included the PEW Stewardship Working Group and PEW Review of Antibiotic Alternates in the U.S.
As we acknowledge World Antibiotics Awareness Week, we are proud of the progress we’ve made across the animal health industry, and we are committed to continuing our work to reduce the need to use antibiotics through a preventative approach focused on animal wellness.
 Sweeney MT, Gunnett LA, Kumar DM, Lunt BL, Galina Pantoja L, Bade D, Machin C. Antimicrobial susceptibility of Actinobacillus pleuropneumoniae, Bordetella bronchiseptica, Pasteurella multocida, and Streptococcus suis isolated from diseased pigs in the United States and Canada, 2016 to 2020. J Swine Health Prod. 2022;30(3):130-144. https://doi.org/10.54846/jshap/1282 (aasv.org)