Antimicrobial resistance and animals - Actions

Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a serious public health problem around the world. This page explains how we are taking action to address antimicrobial resistance related to the use of antimicrobials in animals.

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Antimicrobial resistance and animals

Antimicrobials, such as antibiotics, are used to slow the growth of or kill bacteria that cause infections and illnesses in humans and animals. Antimicrobial resistance can happen naturally, but the inappropriate use of antimicrobials in people, animals and plants is escalating the problem.

In animals, antimicrobial use can contribute to the development and spread of resistant bacteria that can be transferred to humans through the food we eat (animal products) and through direct contact.

When antimicrobial resistance develops, the antibiotics normally used may not work as well, or fail completely. This can make antimicrobials less effective at treating bacterial diseases in humans and animals.

Antimicrobial resistance threatens the continuous availability of effective antimicrobials to combat bacterial infections in human and veterinary medicine.

Taking action to improve oversight and responsible use

Antimicrobial resistance is a complex problem that requires coordinated action among stakeholders. A One Health approach acknowledges the interconnection between the health of humans, animals and their shared environment, and the need for collaborative efforts across sectors to improve health for all.

We have made significant progress in building an evidence-based approach to assessing the antimicrobial resistance risk from antimicrobials licensed for use in animals. Our ongoing actions include:

  • implementing microbiological safety requirements for assessment of new veterinary antimicrobial drug submissions for use in food-producing animals
  • categorizing antimicrobials into 4 categories based on their importance in human medicine to help prioritize risk management options
  • AMR specific warnings on certain medically important antimicrobials (MIAs) belonging to the Categories I, II, and III
  • supporting the microbiological safety evaluation of veterinary antimicrobial drugs by using CIPARS data
  • encouraging prudent use of antimicrobials in animals in collaboration with:
    • provincial and territorial authorities
    • international counterparts
    • veterinarians
    • industry
    • food animal producers
    • associations
    • other animal health stakeholders
    • other federal departments and agencies
  • undertaking the post-market re-evaluation of medically important antimicrobials over time, as the science evolves and new information becomes available, to determine if they contribute to AMR in humans (e.g. if they increase the risk that MIAs become ineffective in treating infections)

Other important actions to increase oversight and promote responsible use of antimicrobials in animals include creation of specific regulatory and policy changes. These changes consider international best practices are developed in collaboration with stakeholders and experts in Canada. By making these changes, we aim to limit risks to human health and ensure that existing antimicrobials continue to be effective.

Regulatory changes

Regulatory changes to the Food and Drug Regulations were published in the Canada Gazette, Part II on May 17, 2017. These changes aim to increase oversight of antimicrobials available for use in animals by focusing on:

Active pharmaceutical ingredients for veterinary use

New rules for active pharmaceutical ingredient (APIs) take effect May 17, 2018. There is an additional 14-month transition period ending July 17, 2019 to submit a drug establishment license (DEL) application for those who fabricate, package/label, test or import them for veterinary use.

Regulatory changes for increased oversight on active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) for veterinary use require:

  • manufacturing according to good manufacturing practices (GMPs)
  • persons who fabricate, import, package, label and test active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) for veterinary use to hold a drug establishment license (DEL)
  • pharmacists, veterinarians or those compounding a drug under the supervision of a licensed veterinarian to hold a drug establishment license (DEL) when importing medically important antimicrobials that are on List A: List of Certain Antimicrobial Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients.

Current Health Canada GMP and DEL guidance documents for human active pharmaceutical ingredients (APIs) can be applied to veterinary APIs. The associated guidance documents are being updated as needed.

Personal importation of certain drugs for food-producing animals

Regulatory changes restrict the personal importation (also known as own use importation) of drugs for food-producing animals to those on List B: List of Certain Veterinary Drugs Which May Be Imported But Not Sold. List B is our regulatory list of veterinary drugs for food-producing animals allowed to be imported for personal use.

Reporting antimicrobial sales information

To support antimicrobial surveillance, regulatory changes require the submission of annual sales reports. These reports require information about the sale of medically important antimicrobials for veterinary use on List A, and must be submitted by:

  • manufacturers
  • importers
  • compounders

Veterinary health products

Regulatory changes provide a flexible and risk appropriate pathway for veterinary health products (VHPs) as also described by our regulatory List C: Veterinary Health Products. They also require manufacturers and importers to notify us before selling or making a change to a marketed VHP in Canada.  

Promoting responsible use of antimicrobials

We work with stakeholders as well as provincial and territorial authorities to make changes that promote the responsible use of antimicrobials in animals.

Notices to stakeholders regarding these changes were posted in 2014 and 2017.

To ensure responsible use by veterinarians, as of December 1, 2018, we moved all medically important antimicrobials to prescription status. Supervision by a licensed veterinarian in treatment decisions is an important part of antimicrobial oversight. Veterinarians who prescribe for animals under their care have the training to assess animal health and diagnose disease. They can also determine the need for antimicrobial drug treatment and choose the treatment.

The use of medically important antimicrobials must be limited to treatment and prevention of diseases. They should not be used for growth promotion or for long, unspecified time periods in animals. Labels may not include growth promotion claims and are being updated as such.

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