Over the past few years, there has been an increasing amount of talk about the judicious use of antibiotics in livestock. The growing trend of antibiotic resistance in human infections has created pressure on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to review antibiotic usages in livestock. In response to this concern, the FDA required that on January 1, 2017, antibiotics in animal feed would require a VFD.
What is a VFD?
A veterinary feed directive (VFD) is a legal document used to put antibiotics in animal feed. Essentially, a VFD is like a prescription for feed medication, but it is
not classified as a prescription because the FDA did not want the Board of Pharmacy to oversee feed mills. A major difference between a VFD and a prescription is there is not extra-label drug use allowed in a VFD.
How long is a VFD valid?
A VFD expires after the treatment is finished or after six months after issuance, whichever comes first. Thus, a VFD with an expiration date in January could expire in November if the treatment is finished at that time. Refills are not allowed on VFDs, so if additional medication is needed after a VFD expires, a new VFD must be issued.
How are VFDs produced?
A VFD is produced by the animal’s veterinarian, and copies are sent (via hard copy or email) to the producer and the feed mill. Each of these three parties must keep the VFD in their records for two years. A third-party company called Global Vet Link specializes in producing VFDs. With Global Vet Link, the Pipestone customer service team can produce a VFD and Global Vet Link sends the VFD to the veterinarian, producer, and feed mill. Another advantage of using Global Vet Link is that VFD’s are stored permanently electronically.
What needs to be included in a VFD?
A VFD must include the owner of the pigs, the address/barn location, feed mill name and address, approximate number of head to medicate, the drug (not the product), drug dose, dose duration, and the production class (nursery, finisher, breeding herd). It is important to note that the drug must be on the form and not the product or trade name. The VFD does not need to include the tons of feed required or the weight of the pigs.
Do all drugs require a VFD?
Not all drugs require a VFD. In 2003, the FDA classified drugs according to their medical importance in human health. Commonly used drugs that do not require a VFD are tiamulin (Denagard), narasin (Skycis), ractopamine (Paylean), bacitracin (BMD), bambermycin (Flavomycin), and carbadox (Mecadox). There is currently no change to the drugs requiring a VFD for 2018.
How are VFD’s enforced?
The FDA enforces VFD’s and will conduct audits to ensure VFD’s are being used correctly for feed medication. During this process thus far, the FDA has arrived at one of the three parties involved in holding a VFD and asked for a VFD at random. They will then trace the VFD to the other two parties involved and ensure that treatment protocols were executed correctly. If everything is in place, the entire inspection should not take more than 30 minutes. The main audit focal points are proper record keeping (two years), treating the labeled number of animals, having the correct treatment duration, meeting the VFD expiration date, and following withdrawal periods.
This new regulatory change transformed the way antibiotics are now fed in animals. VFD’s have been used for a few years with some medications, but the new requirements greatly increased the amount of VFD’s needed. Global Vet Link saw a 50 fold increase in the amount of VFD’s from 2016 to 2017, with January 2017 accounting for almost 20,000 VFD’s written. These VFD changes in 2017 allow us to ensure antibiotics are being used judiciously. Together, we can all do our part to combat antibiotic resistance and ensure their continued use and efficacy.
For additional questions about VFD’s, please contact our swine specialist at: 507-562-PIGS.