Rep. Slaughter, Only Microbiologist in Congress, Introduces Legislation to Save Antibiotics
WASHINGTON, DC — Congresswoman Louise Slaughter (NY-25), the only microbiologist in Congress, today introduced the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA) to prevent a nightmarish post-antibiotic future. The bill would save eight critical classes of antibiotics from being routinely fed to healthy animals and would reserve them only for sick humans and sick animals. Slaughter’s legislation is designed to finally bring an end to the overuse of antibiotics on the farm, a practice that is accelerating the growth of antibiotic-resistant infection. Similar legislation has been introduced this week in the Senate by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Susan Collins (R-ME).
"This year marks the fortieth year since the FDA first acknowledged the dire threat of antibiotic-resistance and called for a reduction in the use of antibiotics in animals. Although I have been sounding the alarm for years, many leaders have failed to take this threat seriously. All the while, the consequences have continued to grow, with the discovery last year of an antibiotic-resistant superbug in the United States that couldn’t be killed by any known drug. It is beyond time for meaningful action to protect the public health and stop this in its tracks. We must break the stranglehold the pharmaceutical industry and corporate agriculture have on our public health policy and finally pass this bill,” said Slaughter.
In his 1945 Nobel acceptance speech, Alexander Fleming, who discovered penicillin, warned that overusing antibiotics would cause bacteria to mutate and become resistant to treatment, creating superbugs that were difficult or impossible to cure. That warning has become reality.
More than two million Americans acquire an antibiotic-resistant infection every year, and at least 23,000 die from those infections – more than HIV/AIDS. The average hospitalization period is four days, creating $20-35 billion in excess direct health care costs each year in the U.S. Globally, 700,000 die each year and the annual cost is estimated to be as high as $1.2 trillion.
Currently, 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States are sold for agricultural use. Most often, these antibiotics are distributed at sub-therapeutic levels to healthy animals as a way to compensate for crowded and unsanitary living conditions or to promote growth. Any effort to stop the growth of antibiotic-resistant bacteria must address the overuse of antibiotics in food-animals.
Slaughter has sponsored this legislation for the past four terms in office, and was an original cosponsor when the bill was first introduced in 1999. PAMTA is supported by 450 organizations, including public health organizations, scientists, the World Health Organization, American Medical Association, National Academy of Sciences and small farmers across the United States.
As the only microbiologist in Congress, Slaughter has led the national effort to combat the spread of antibiotic resistance and preserve the effectiveness of these life-saving drugs. In addition to writing PAMPTA, she has also introduced a bill to require robust reporting of antibiotic use by factory farms. Slaughter has. Slaughter has also introduced legislation to ensure our nation’s food supply remains safe and nutritious. After leading an investigation into fast food company policies on antibiotic use, she called on McDonald’s to make their meat more sustainable by only using beef raised without antibiotics.