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The Gray Area of Antibiotics: What Should I Use and When?

Which drugs can I use? When can I use them? In this case, it’s always best to refer to the label for drug information and administration protocols. However, there might be more questions raised that are not as black and white.

Veterinarians from Kansas State University share their recommendations when it comes to antibiotic decision-making.

Generic Products

While a number of brand-name drugs have been popular on the market for years, Brad White, DVM, explains there are several new generic or equivalent brands coming out as these original drugs come off patent.

Generic drugs need to meet a certain level of bio-equivalence — oftentimes everything in the bottle is the same, says Brian Lubbers, DVM. In addition, generic drugs usually decrease the price point at which people can purchase the products. That said, many generic products offer equal efficacy at a lower cost.

Antibiotic Use

Even though there is less money invested in these generic drugs and there are more products on the market, specifically for antibiotics, White recommends producers should not change their use patterns.

Making good antimicrobial and antibiotic decisions, such as using the right drug in the right animal at the right time, should influence producers’ decisions, says Bob Larson, DVM. This is not driven by price, necessarily, but by what provides an advantage to the health of the animal.

Is it Necessary?

A lower cost drug might seem more disposable, so Larson encourages producers take price out of the equation and truly consider the necessity of the drug.

At times, it is obvious whether an animal needs an antibiotic or not. However, Lubbers says, “We work in a pretty wide gray zone a lot of the time. When [producers] are in that gray zone, it's easier to say, ‘well, it might help, and it's not cost prohibitive, so I will go ahead,’” specifically when working with less expensive drugs.

Lubbers suggests having a conversation with a veterinarian to discuss the animal’s symptoms and develop a good case definition for when the drug is necessary.

White also encourages producers to make the decisions and protocols for their operation ahead of time, not when a sick animal is found. Be proactive and prepare to make the most conscious, efficient decisions for your operation and the animals raised.


September 30, 2022


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