And Now For A Brief Survey of the News…

First, I want to live in a world where no member of my species thinks the best way to relax a cat is to stuff it into a bong.

Second, President Obama has re-empowered the Endangered Species Act (ESA).  One of our former president’s last minute parting gifts was to decree that federal agencies could decide for themselves whether their proposed actions ran afoul of the ESA instead of attaining an independent opinion from the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  This meant that an agency could both propose an action and decide for itself  if that action had any adverse consequences instead of seeking a second opinion from a disinterested agency.  While the Bushies thought this a wonderful idea, most everyone who cares about endangered species and the integrity of the statute thought it horrific.  President Obama fell into the latter category and has now suspended the new rule and restored the status quo ante pending a full review.  Sweeter legalese has rarely been spoken.



FDA Reversal on Off Label Antibiotic Use: A Big Picture View

Here’s a newsflash:  Neither Laura Bush nor Condoleeza Rice think the Bush Presidency has been the worst in history.  Hmmm, I guess I’ll have to rethink…

In other less newsworthy matters, the FDA has reversed itself and decided to permit “off label” prophylactic use of cephalosporin antibiotics for industrial, confined “food” animals.  Off label use refers to administering a drug for purposes other than those for which it was tested and approved.  The FDA approved cephalosporin for treating respiratory illness in cattle and pigs as well as for a variety of human illnesses.  However, the animal industry had been making widespread use of it in other animals and for other uses.

Faced with the growing crisis of antibiotic resistance, the FDA had determined in July that using one of a dwindling number of effective antibiotics prophylactically and for other non-approved purposes in animals did not make sense.  It announced a ban on such behavior beginning on November 30th but withdrew the ban four days before it was to go into effect.  Apparently, Big Food and its allies were concerned that eliminating off label use would cause animals to suffer needlessly.  Read about their compassion here.  Of course, empathy does have limits.  For example, the possibility of not confining the animals in such close proximity apparently did not merit discussion.

Cynics among us might view the campaign to quash the rule as part of a coordinated campaign by Big Food and Big Pharma to maintain the profitability and preeminence of industrial agriculture despite ever-increasing human health risks and ongoing, routinized animal torture.  Those cynics might also view the FDA’s capitulation as a glaring example of agency capture.

But then, that’s the same kind of cynicism that causes people to misrepresent the Bush Presidency as a catastrophic failure.  As Secretary Rice observes, “historians who are now making judgments about the Bush administration and its Middle East policies aren’t very good historians.”

That must be it.

Hat tip to the Marler Blog for its disturbing and informative post on the cephalosporin issue.

David Cassuto