Antibiotics play a critical role in fighting bacterial infections in animals on our farms. Of course, many of these same medications also restore human health, and that is one of the reasons why certain antibiotics will no longer be available over the counter come next summer.

As of June 11, 2023, all medically important antibiotics approved for use in animals, both livestock and companion, will require a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) to purchase. Labels will clearly state that federal law restricts the use of these products to licensed veterinarians or under the order of a veterinarian. Gone will be the days of purchasing these injectable, intramammary, or bolus over the counter (OTC) antibiotics from farm stores, feed cooperatives, or online suppliers without a prescription.

This is the next step in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine’s five-year plan to slow antimicrobial resistance of drugs that benefit both animal and human health. It follows in line with FDA’s 2017 requirement that all feed and water-soluble medications be used under veterinarian supervision.

While we recognize it won’t be as handy to simply grab an antibiotic off the shelf when inventory gets low, the benefits to both animal and human health are important in terms of preventing antimicrobial resistance. In addition, stricter antibiotic guidance may be an opportunity for farms to look at ways to reduce their usage, such as feeding programs that bolster animal health or selective dry cow therapy for cows that qualify. In the long run, more judicious use of antibiotics should resonate positively with consumers and boost their confidence in our products.

What can we do to prepare for this change? Start by talking with your veterinarian. While antibiotics will still be available over the counter until the June cut-off date, be certain you have a working relationship with your practitioner and a plan in place as to how you will secure these important treatment tools in the future.