Livestock antibiotic label changes eliminate over-the-counter availability

The Food and Drug Administration released the final rule of the Veterinary Feed Directive on June 2. According to the FDA, this rule is part of an overall strategy to ensure judicious use of feed-grade and water-soluble antibiotics in food-producing animals.

"The issue surrounding the use of these antibiotics began several years ago," said Craig Payne, director of Veterinary Extension and Continuing Education at the University of Missouri.

Payne said the FDA established two primary goals. One was to phase out the use of feed-grade and water-soluble antibiotics for production purposes such as improved feed efficiency. The other goal was to move away from over-the-counter availability of antibiotics to more veterinary oversight.

The FDA provided guidance for animal health companies on how to make labeling changes. Payne said all companies agreed to make the necessary changes by December 2016.

Payne says the biggest difference for producers will be the move from over the counter availability to veterinary supervision. This means producers will need to have a prescription from their veterinarian before they can obtain these antibiotics in the future. 

Payne said the prescription for a feed-grade antibiotic is called a Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) and for water-soluble antibiotics it's called a prescription. In either case, he said a Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR) must be in place before the veterinarian can legally issue a VFD or prescription. In other words, the producer and veterinarian need to have a working relationship, and the veterinarian must be familiar with the animals on the operation.

Although the changes won't take full effect until December 2016, Payne encourages producers to begin discussing these changes with their veterinarian. Payne mentioned that extension, the FDA and other groups will also help educate producers about these changes.

"Just keep your eyes and ears open for any opportunity to get additional education on this issue," Payne said.

To view the FDA fact sheet regarding the final rule, visit