Xylazine, an important FDA approved prescription animal drug that is widely used in veterinary medicine, particularly in cattle for sedation for surgeries and procedures, is getting the attention of regulators at the state and federal levels.

While the Drug Enforcement Administration has indicated that there is no evidence to date that veterinary medicine has been a target to obtain xylazine for illegal purposes, it has been increasingly showing up in street drugs in combination with illicit fentanyl and other narcotics.

At the state level, Gov. Mike DeWine signed an executive order directing the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy to immediately classify xylazine as a Schedule III controlled substance, making Ohio one of the first states in the nation to schedule xylazine as a controlled substance drug.

“While we understand the concerns of protecting our communities from the illicit use of all types of drugs, changing xylazine from a prescription to a controlled drug could impact veterinarians from an animal welfare standpoint and increase safety risks to those managing these animals,” said Roger High, director of livestock with Ohio Farm Bureau.

In recent months, Farm Bureau has been working alongside the Ohio Veterinary Medical Association and American Veterinary Medical Association to help the Food and Drug Administration and Congress find pathways to reduce the illicit use of xylazine while also ensuring accessibility in veterinary medicine.

“Central to the issue of controlled drug status for xylazine is not the additional record keeping and security measures involved, but rather the impact of such a move on accessibility of the drug in veterinary medicine,” according to a statement by OVMA. “Of the remaining two manufacturers of xylazine in North America, only one has DEA approval in its facility to manufacture Schedule III controlled drugs. The other has indicated that, if xylazine is made a controlled drug, they would not utilize their time, research and financial resources to achieve that status and would simply discontinue manufacturing it.”

OVMA says supply chain disruption is already a concern with xylazine and therefore the impact of losing another manufacturer would compound the problem significantly.

Bipartisan legislation, likely to be introduced in Congress in the next few weeks, would make xylazine a controlled drug for purposes of illicit use in humans, while keeping it a non-controlled drug for legitimate/licit use in nonhuman species. The change would give law enforcement added penalties for those found using xylazine in street drugs but keep pathways open for access and use in veterinary medicine.

Prior to the governor’s executive order, Ohio Farm Bureau, along with the Ohio Cattlemen’s Association and Ohio Dairy Producers Association made the DeWine administration aware of the above information, relative to maintaining the availability of xylazine in veterinary medicine and have encouraged them to wait for the national resolution, adding consistency across state lines.

Ohio’s livestock community and member organizations will remain actively engaged in working with Ohio regulators and national organization partners to help resolve this situation and will continue to keep members informed of new developments.

For more information regarding the emergency scheduling of xylazine visit the Ohio Department of Agriculture’s Xylazine FAQ page.

Labor has always been an issue, mainly because we are a seasonal operation. So that's a challenge finding somebody who only wants to work three months out of a year, sometimes up to six months.
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