Stakeholder position paper: economist’s perspectives on antibiotic use in animals

Miller GY, McNamara PE, Singer RS
Preventive Veterinary Medicine 73:163-168

Economics seeks to understand and explain the allocation of resources within society and to suggest appropriate policy to achieve goals such as optimal efficiency. Relating antimicrobial use and antibiotic resistance is a complex task and requires very clear and careful analyses of many relationships. To address these relationships, antibiotic use data must be linked with other basic data. Ideally, a complex relational database needs to be developed. These must include data on: antimicrobial usage, farm-level animal productivity, basic disease, basic farm management, consumer response, and antimicrobial resistance at multiple levels (farm, during process, on a variety of both animal, vegetable and grain-derived food products, from humans, from other animal species, and from the environment) among other data. Such a complex relational database can help with the attribution and risk assessment process. Also these linked data are needed in order to develop the economic production models and other economic models, as well as control for confounding so that there is both adequate and appropriate statistical control. Antimicrobial usage data may become economically important for reasons unrelated to animal productivity and animal health. With expanding global trade of animals and animal products, there have been changes in restrictions and regulations associated with the movement of products. Future trade opportunities may be linked to antimicrobial usage. The European Union banned the use of antimicrobials for growth-promoting purposes based on perceived risk and on public opinion. Monitoring antimicrobial use, disease occurrence, and resistance patterns following changes in usage that are a result of either policy changes or response to new information will help in the understanding of the complex relationships in microbial and disease ecology. There is a lot of evidence substantiating the productivity and profitability gains to producers from the use of antimicrobials. There is also evidence for the potential gains to consumers, both from an economic perspective as well as from a health perspective. Economists can help identify the implications of these relationships both at a micro- and macro-economic level; both relative to producer and to consumer welfare. We are at a pivotal time in history with sufficient analytical expertise and tools to address this complex issue from a scientific perspective. Linking various agencies so there can be coordination of data collection and data sharing is needed to successfully address this topic.