The driving force for the initial VFD rule in 1996 and the recent revisions is improving drug availability for the benefit of animal health and welfare, and, in turn, food safety. The increasing threat of antibiotic resistance (antimicrobial resistance) to both human and animal health compelled the FDA to take action by removing production uses of medically important antibiotics and implementing greater veterinary oversight by transitioning over-the-counter (OTC) antibiotics to VFD or prescription status. Any antibiotic use can contribute to antibiotic resistance, so it is important to avoid unnecessary or inappropriate uses of antibiotics. The use of medically important antibiotics in livestock is one factor that can contribute to increasing resistance, and the 2017 VFD revisions (published in June 2015) aim to put responsibility for their use into the hands of veterinarians, who are trained to understand not only when these medications are needed, but also what is the appropriate drug, dose, duration, and administration method to resolve infection and protect animal health and our food supply. The expertise of the veterinarian is critical to ensuring the responsible use of antibiotics in animals.
The FDA and drug manufacturers have agreed to remove production uses (i.e., growth promotion, feed efficiency) for antibiotics that are medically important and to require veterinary oversight for use of these antibiotics in feed (requires a VFD) or water (requires a prescription). Under the direction of a veterinarian, the responsible and appropriate administration of antibiotics reduces the opportunity for resistance to develop, and helps preserve our supply of effective antibiotics for situations of true need to protect animal and human health. While the changes will be challenging for everyone involved, the end result will be more responsible antibiotic use that will benefit human and animal health.
Veterinarians are committed to ensuring that animal health and welfare needs are met, and that needed medications be available and administered in a timely manner for treating, controlling, or preventing animal disease. Animals will still receive antibiotics when there is a clear indication of their need. Food producers will be able to work with veterinarians to ensure that animals have the care and medication they need, when they need it.
information from AVMA: https://www.avma.org/KB/Resources/Pages/VFD123.aspx