India has banned the use of colistin, a “last resort” antibiotic, in an effort to combat diseases that are increasingly resistant to antibiotics, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported in September 2019. In 2018, the Bureau had originally reported how five major animal pharmaceutical companies were supplying Indian farmers with products containing colistin to promote animal growth. Colistin is known as a “last resort” antibiotic because it is used to treat people with infections that are resistant to almost all other drugs. However, despite its importance as a drug of last hope, the Bureau reported, “for years it has been indiscriminately added to animal feed on Indian farms, breeding deadly bugs.”
The Bureau reported that the world’s largest animal pharmaceutical company, Zoetis, has been supplying India with antibiotics for the purpose of fattening livestock, despite bans on its use in the European Union and the United States, and calls by the World Health Organization for a global ban.
As Madlen Davies and Glen Stockton’s September 2019 report recapped, the Bureau’s original report documented how Indian poultry companies like Venky’s marketed colistin as a growth promoter to farmers. In India, Venky’s supplies supermarkets and fast food outlets including KFC, McDonalds, and Pizza Hut—though, the Bureau noted, these fast food brands denied charges that their chicken contained growth-promoting antibiotics.
Antibiotic resistance poses global health risks, as Project Censored as previously reported. One study, “The Review on Antimicrobial Resistance,” sponsored by the Wellstone Trust and the UK Department of Health, predicted that by 2050 “10 million lives a year and a cumulative 100 trillion USD of economic output are at risk due to the rise of drug resistant infections if we do not find proactive solutions now to slow down the rise of drug resistance” (p. 4, 11).
Source: Madlen Davies and Ben Stockton, “India Bans Use of ‘Last Hope’ Antibiotic on Farms,” Bureau of Investigative Journalism, September 12, 2019, https://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/stories/2019-07-22/india-bans-use-of-last-hope-antibiotic-colistin-on-farms.
Student Researcher: Rachel Cerveny (University of Vermont)
Faculty Evaluator: Rob Williams (University of Vermont)