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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Animal & Veterinary

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Celebration Time! A Look at Vet2011 and CVM Veterinarians

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 Cover of Vet2011 article
by Melanie McLean, DVM, Center for Veterinary Medicine, FDA

National and international veterinary groups, and even the U.S. Congress, proclaimed 2011 as World Veterinary Year. This yearlong celebration, also called Vet2011, is a salute to all the veterinarians, both past and present, who have dedicated their careers to protecting public and animal health.

If asked to think of the “typical” workplace for a veterinarian, most people probably conjure up an image of the small animal clinic where they take their pets. Some people may imagine a dairy farm or hog barn. Still others may picture a racetrack filled with horses and jockeys. Few would likely think of a federal office building. But, Vet2011 celebrates the typical and not-so-typical image of a veterinarian at work.

Over 3000 veterinarians work for the federal government. One is a member of the U.S. Congress and works on Capitol Hill – Dr. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) in the House of Representatives. While most federal veterinarians work in less majestic settings than the U.S. Capitol, they are critical to the mission of the federal government.

A majority of the federal veterinarians work at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which makes sense given the close relationship between veterinary medicine and animal agriculture. Veterinarians are also integral to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). FDA is responsible for ensuring the safety of the food supply, and the safety and effectiveness of human and animal drugs. About 140 veterinarians work throughout the seven centers and two offices of FDA.

Over half of the federal veterinarians with FDA work at the Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM). Led by a veterinarian, Dr. Bernadette Dunham, the center employs a diverse group of veterinarians who wear many hats. While their jobs within the center may differ, the goal of all CVM veterinarians is the same – to protect human and animal health.

Most of the veterinary workforce at CVM is in one of four offices:

  • Office of New Animal Drug Evaluation
  • Office of Surveillance & Compliance
  • Office of Research
  • Office of Minor Use and Minor Species Animal Drug Development

Office of New Animal Drug Evaluation

The Office of New Animal Drug Evaluation (ONADE) is the center’s “pre-approval office,” meaning ONADE is the lead office for reviewing the information about a new animal drug before it is approved. To get a drug approved, the drug company must submit an application for approval to ONADE. The application is called a New Animal Drug Application for a brand name animal drug, or an Abbreviated New Animal Drug Application for a generic animal drug. Veterinarians in ONADE review the information in the application to make sure the drug is safe and effective for a specific use in a specific animal species. The drug can be for a companion animal, such as a dog, cat, or horse; or for a food-producing animal, such as a cow, pig, or chicken. If the drug is for a food-producing animal, veterinarians and other scientists in ONADE also make sure food made from treated animals is safe for people to eat. If the veterinarians and other scientists in ONADE conclude the drug is safe and effective if used according to the label, the application is approved and the drug company can legally market the drug.

Office of Surveillance & Compliance

The Office of Surveillance & Compliance (OS&C) is the center’s “post-approval office,” meaning OS&C is responsible for monitoring information about approved animal drugs after they are on the market. Veterinarians in OS&C review the information to make sure the animal drugs remain safe and effective. If they discover problems with an approved drug, FDA can pull the drug off the market. OS&C veterinarians also monitor how drug companies promote approved animal drugs to make sure the advertisements are truthful and not misleading.

Veterinarians and other scientists in OS&C have many other responsibilities, such as:

  • Working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to monitor the occurrence of unsafe drug residues in food products made from animals, such as meat, milk, and eggs.
  • Coordinating enforcement actions related to unsafe drug residues and unapproved animal drugs that may harm public and animal health.
  • Ensuring the safety of animal feed.
  • Monitoring information about marketed animal devices to make sure they are safe and effective.

What are “drug residues”?

When a food-producing animal is treated with a drug, residues of the drug may be present in or on food products made from that animal. Drug residues include small amounts of leftover drug, or parts of the drug that are not completely broken down by the animal’s body. 

Office of Research

The Office of Research (OR) houses the center’s state-of-the-art research facility where veterinarians and other scientists conduct studies to support the scientific decisions of CVM’s other offices. The facility includes laboratories with specialized equipment and instruments, and pastures and animal buildings that accommodate a variety of animals.

OR veterinarians and scientists are currently involved in several research projects, including studies to:

  • Develop better methods to test for drug residues in food products made from animals, such as meat, milk, and eggs.
  • Investigate how certain uses of antimicrobial drugs in food-producing animals may impact antimicrobial resistance in people.
  • Research the use of biomarkers in diagnosing certain diseases and evaluating drug effectiveness.
  • Research the potential role of animal feed contaminants in disease transmission and as a source of antimicrobial resistance.
  • Develop better methods to test domestic and imported seafood products for illegal drugs and chemicals.

What are “antimicrobial drugs”?

Antimicrobial drugs are drugs that work against a variety of micro-organisms, such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. Antimicrobial drugs that work specifically against bacteria are called “antibacterial drugs,” or more commonly, “antibiotics.”

What is “antimicrobial resistance”?

Antimicrobial resistance is when bacteria are no longer susceptible to an antimicrobial drug, meaning that the drug, and similar drugs, will no longer work against those bacteria. Antimicrobial resistance is also called “antibiotic resistance” or “drug resistance.”  

Office of Minor Use and Minor Species Animal Drug Development

The Office of Minor Use and Minor Species Animal Drug Development (OMUMS for short) is the center’s newest and smallest office. The goal of veterinarians in OMUMS is to make more drugs legally available for minor species and for minor uses in a major species (“MUMS drugs”). OMUMS veterinarians achieve this goal in several ways, including using two key provisions of the Minor Use and Minor Species Health Act of 2004:

  • Designation to provide a drug company with financial incentives, such as grant money and exclusive marketing rights, to pursue an approval or conditional approval for a MUMS drug.
  • Indexing to allow a drug company to legally market an unapproved animal drug for use in certain minor species as long as the drug is listed on the Index of Legally Marketed Unapproved New Animal Drugs for Minor Species.

Working with both government and non-government groups, the veterinarians in OMUMS also support the research of MUMS drugs. More research leads to more information, which hopefully leads to more approvals of these important animal drugs.

What are “minor species”?

Minor species are all animals that are not major species. The seven major species are cattle, horses, pigs, chickens, turkeys, dogs, and cats. Ferrets, eagles, fish, and sheep are examples of minor species.

What is a “minor use in a major species”?

A minor use in a major species is using a drug in a major species for a condition that occurs:

  • Infrequently and in only a small number of animals each year; or
  • In limited geographic areas and in only a small number of animals each year. 

While CVM veterinarians may not fit the “typical” image of a veterinarian at work, they are committed to making the world a safer and healthier place for people and animals. As part of Vet2011, let’s applaud these hardworking federal veterinarians!


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