One of my favorite parts of my role as head of Zoetis’ U.S. business is spending time out in the field with farmers, ranchers and the veterinarians who support them. The pride and passion they all have for what they do and how it helps society is inspiring. They are truly dedicated to providing safe, high quality meat, poultry and dairy foods to families around the world.
Today, their work is arguably more challenging and more important than ever. To meet rising global demand for safe and affordable protein, they must find new and better ways of protecting animals from ever-present and emerging diseases, and combat antimicrobial resistance that threatens people and animals alike. As their partner, Zoetis is committed to advocating, innovating and collaborating in this space to ensure they can continue to do their jobs.
As part of our commitment to antibiotic stewardship, I participated last night in a lively roundtable discussion on this topic in Washington, DC, where members of the animal health and public health communities, food companies, and the media gathered to share ideas and solutions.
The focus of my remarks centered around Zoetis’ Antibiotic Stewardship platform of working with our livestock farmers and veterinary customers to Advocate, Innovate and Collaborate around antibiotic usage.
Advocating for Health of Animals and Veterinary Oversight
First, we help them focus on preventing disease, including the use of vaccines and biosecurity measures. But, even when given the best possible preventive care, animals may become sick just like people do. When they do, we know that veterinarians strive to prescribe antibiotics in a responsible way. This is important not only to cure infection, but also to reduce the unintended risk of antimicrobial resistance that can happen over time in animals.
We have long believed that veterinary professionals are uniquely qualified and should play a central role in decisions about the use of antibiotic medicines in animals. Their goals are to protect animal and human health, to assure the safety of the food supply, and to help reduce the risk of resistance. With that in mind, we have supported the steps taken by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to put in place new regulations and policies that require a veterinary prescription when antibiotics important to people and animals are needed to treat infection in animals.
I am proud of the work our Zoetis veterinary technical specialists and field representatives do to support veterinarians, farmers and ranchers. They are specially trained to work with customers to apply new animal health solutions and protocols that can help protect against common diseases, improve pig, cattle and poultry health, and help reduce the need for antibiotics. Our programs such as Individual Pig Care, Dairy Wellness, Progressive Beef, and Rotecc for poultry growers are prime examples of the hands-on support our customers value from Zoetis.
Innovating for New Solutions
While we are helping our customers here and now, we know they look to Zoetis to bring them a new generation of even better solutions for infectious diseases in the future. To that end, Zoetis has an extensive, highly productive research and development program in anti-infectives, including antibiotics. Our scientists worldwide are evaluating novel classes of antibiotics that have high potential for use in veterinary medicine but are unlikely to become important in human medicine. And, we are exploring the potential of non-antibiotic anti-infectives such as peptides.
Another increasingly important part of our business and R&D is vaccines, with the goal of helping our customers preserve health, instead of treating disease. We are exploring ways to make vaccines more effective and provide immunity for longer periods of time and with increased speed in achieving a protective immune response.
We are also pursuing diagnostic tests for use at point of care that could help veterinarians rapidly identify organisms, including resistant ones, which are causing disease, and guide them in prescribing the most effective antibiotic to treat it.
Collaborating in a One Health Approach
Finally, we actively participate in a One Health approach that brings together human and veterinary medicine, public health, and the agriculture, food manufacturing and retailing communities to create a common understanding and set of solutions. In a One Health conversation, we can offer technical expertise from our research and development staff as well as insights from our team of veterinarians who work daily with farmers, animal caregivers and other veterinarians.
At the same time, we are continuously working with our customers, giving them the knowledge, tools and training to use antibiotics properly according to their labeling when they are medically necessary. We see this service as our responsibility not only to our customers, but to society.
As part of that responsibility, for more than 15 years Zoetis has conducted a continuous surveillance program on antimicrobial resistance in both cattle and swine. We routinely communicate the information collected to both the program participants and our customers, and I am proud to say the excellence of our surveillance programs are recognized by the FDA and the USDA.
Taking Our Responsibility to Heart
As we are fond of saying at Zoetis, because the world depends on animals, those who raise and care for animals can depend on us. When it comes to antibiotic stewardship, we take our responsibility to heart. Our customers should expect nothing less. We are doing all we can to advocate for responsible use, innovate new anti-infective solutions that will help protect the health of animals, and collaborate as One Health on this important issue. Zoetis wants for all families what you want for yours - safe, high-quality meat, poultry and milk from healthy animals raised in a sustainable way.
I invite you to learn more about our antibiotic stewardship by visiting the Zoetis website.
Ms. Peck’s editorial is based on a recent discussion at a roundtable dinner, hosted by The Atlantic and underwritten by the National Pork Board. Read her full bio here.