Merck Animal Health offers statement on beta-agonist report

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News agencies this week have reported on an article appearing in the online scientific journal Plos one regarding animal health and welfare issues associated with beta agonist feed additives. In response, Merck Animal Health issued a statement on Thursday.

Authors of the Plos one article are veterinarians Guy H. Loneragan, BVSc, Ph.D., Texas Tech University, Daniel U. Thomson, DVM, PhD, Kansas State University and H. Morgan Scott, DVM, PhD, Kansas State University.

The researchers analyzed three datasets: one included information from randomized and controlled clinical trials of the beta agonist ractopamine hydrochloride (Optaflexx), while the other two were observational data on zilpaterol hydrochloride (Zilmax). Analysis of those datasets indicated an association between beta agonist use and increased mortality rates among heavy cattle, particularly during periods of risk for heat stress or cold stress.

In response, Merck Animal Health issued its statement citing results of more than 30 controlled, randomized research trials showing no increase in death loss among cattle fed Zilmax. The company currently is sponsoring an extensive field evaluation program conducted by independent experts.

The Merck statement also points out that the analysis related to Zilmax in the Plos one article was based on observational data, rather than controlled, randomized experiments.

Read the full statement from Merck Animal Health.

Watch for a more detailed update on what’s happening with beta agonists in the April issue of Drovers/CattleNetwork magazine.

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Mn  |  March, 14, 2014 at 09:53 AM

Isn't science great? I particularly like Merck's statement in the 2nd to last paragraph where they say they are conducting further evaluation, BUT already know the answer will support product safety. [No matter how hard they have to twist data?] "This program...will support the results of previous studies and the safety of the product". {No matter what???]

co  |  March, 16, 2014 at 09:15 AM

Even if the stuff is safe I've never understood how producing more of a lower quality product could be a benefit to the industry. Anyone remeber what happened to the American auto industry in the 70's and 80's?

Dr. Chris    
Texas  |  March, 16, 2014 at 11:42 AM

Dr. Loneragen and Dr. Thomson are correct in the fact that beta agonist reduce animals ability to handle stress. Any 4-H or FFA kid that has used it on a barrow or steer would be able to tell you how they all have dose and time dependent negatives to weigh with the positives of increased muscle mass. Keeping animals healthy, minimizing stress, and treating appropriately when animals are sick are always important in preserving the sanctity of the food they provide us. Genetics is the purest way to improve food quality, and production traits. Nutrition and environment management is the backbone of keeping animal healthy and productive. There is no sense not just telling the simple truth. Many products have unintended side effects.

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