So for the reasons above, among many others, I am proud and privileged to be an American. Yesterday, however, I was frustrated to be an American. Despite wealth and intelligence, important and pressing issues may not advance and I am baffled as to why.
I attended the 3rd of 3 hearings concerning antibiotic resistance. Coincidentally, during my animals and public policy course last year I presented a paper on the urgency and precedence this issue must take in order to keep our antibiotics working for animal and human health. There were so many frustrations I do not exactly know where to start, so I will list them out:
- 3 Republican Representatives slammed the Obama Administration's health care reform bill (not the issue to be discussed) then left the room.
- 1 Representative discussed his own agenda with an expert witness from the FDA-Center for Veterinary Medicine regarding FDA jurisdiction over the illegal importation of counterfeit pharmaceutical drugs. He left the room after his time was finished.
- Despite a co-Chairman of this subcommittee, who was present at the meeting, raising the identical question of "Can antibiotic resistance in animals be passed to be people?" in 1980, there was debate over there has been enough peer-reviewed scientific evidence to enable Congress to act on this topic. 30 years have gone by and we are in the same place, only with more antibiotic resistance in humans and people.
- The argument was made that low-doses of tetracyclines in food animals increases their health without creating resistant organisms. What does vet school teach you in clinical pharmacology- low doses of any antibiotic in any living animal creates only resistance.
- One Representative stated, "Animal and human health are like apples and oranges." This statement had me enraged. How uneducated can you be. Animals carry the food-borne diseases that make us sick. In addition, if you want to use an ignorant analogy like that, a smarter way would be to say, " Animal and human health are like a granny smith and a red delicious apple."
- The representative for the AVMA stated there is not enough evidence to either prove or disprove that antibiotic resistance in animals is transferred to humans. Directly to her left was a veterinarian who works for the AVMA, who stated that in her professional experience she has seen many accounts that animal diseases with resistant strains of campylobacter have created human outbreaks of campylobacter that then did not respond to traditional antibiotic therapies. By the way, she also had a 3 inch binder of epidemioloigc studies.
- When asked the question, "Is there any scientific debate that antibiotic resistance in animals is transferred to humans?," the chief veterinary officer of CDC, the head of USDA-APHIS, and the head veterinarian for FDA all answered "No there is not."
- "World Health organization studies are irrelevant to American data."
I left very frustrated and frightened for the future. After 30 years, we still debate what 3 experts declare is not debatable instead of moving forward to protect an important class of drugs. I personally believe our government is too large and parties too divided with too many self-serving interests groups with money controlling the power or re-election to function properly.
I hope my next days on the Hill are a little more promising..and relevant.