App provides food animal data
for veterinarians, producers
By Sarah Carey
Food animal veterinarians seeking quick and up-to-date information about drug regulations in food producing animals should know there’s now an app for that.
Although some practitioners might not be likely to use smartphones in the field to call up information, others, such as Dr. Judd Sims, an intern with the University of Florida College of Veterinary Medicine’s food animal reproduction and medicine service, say they would make good use of just such a tool. For Sims, pulling up data on a mobile device is as natural as, well, texting.
Thanks to a new mobile app developed under the oversight of Dr. Tom Vickroy, a professor of pharmacology in the college’s department of physiological sciences, veterinary practitioners and producers who seek information relating to food animal drugs or mandatory drug withdrawal times can quickly access information they need for making sound medical decisions.
Known as Mobile VetGRAM, the app, currently available only for smartphones running the Android operating system, is a component of the much-broader Food Animal Residue Avoidance and Depletion (FARAD) program, said Vickroy. The app is an adaptation of a new mobile-friendly site launched earlier this year. That site, which was developed in collaboration with Carolyn Whitford, a FARAD information technology specialist, is usable by iPhones, iPads and other non-Android devices. Although anyone with Internet access can peruse the database from any computer, the Mobile VetGRAM app allows users to access information, even in areas without wireless service.
Development of an iOS app for use on iPhones and iPads is is currently being discussed, Vickroy said.
“Being a new vet and still not having dosages, routes of administration, frequencies and withdrawal times of all of our common food animal drugs committed to memory, I would love to have a resource like this so readily available to me,” said Sims, a 2013 graduate of the UF veterinary college. Sims is excited about the app, but must wait for its next iteration to use it in the field, as he has an iPhone.
“One of the important aspects of medical care of our food animal patients is using drugs in a way that will be legal, safe and, in the end, wholesome for the consumer,” said Dr. Owen Rae, a beef cattle specialist in the college’s department of large animal clinical sciences. “Whenever drugs are given to one of our patients, whether an approved product or an extra label drug use, we have the responsibility to know the drug withholding time for that product — meat and milk, for example– and to make sure that our client likewise knows and observe the withholding time.”
Rae said food animal practitioners aim to have “zero percent drug residue violations in our patients.”
“The application developed by Dr. Vickroy permits access to that database via mobile devices to identify drugs and the drug withholding time for an expected dose range and route of administration, whether a species or different categories of animals within a species,” he said.
“An especially nice feature is that the app acknowledges the current date and time to the minute, and calculates the withholding time for the drug, also to the minute. It is then a ready resource to talk to a client about dosing, route of administration, withholding to a specific and correctly calculated day. It is a very solid resource.”
Although Rae doesn’t own a smart phone or use Mobile VetGRAM, he has used the web-based version in his office and in discussions with students.
“I certainly could ask almost any student with me on any given day and they could access and use the app,” Rae said.
UF is one of four different academic veterinary colleges that are involved in maintaining the FARAD program, the purpose of which, in essence, is to help veterinarians and food animal producers maintain the safety of food products derived from animals.
“Florida is the center that maintains the FARAD website and keeps all of the related databases updated with the latest regulatory information,” Vickroy said. “The mobile app that we developed provides access to one specific component of FARAD’s databases that relates specifically to food animal drugs and withdrawal times that are required under federal law.”
Vickroy said the new app enables food animal veterinarians and others who might seek the information, to quickly pull up information on a single drug as well as multiple formulations of that drug and dosage regimens.
“There’s a lot of drug-related information that food animal veterinarians must consider,” he said. “There needs to be a way to access that information in the field in order to make informed decisions.”
In addition, the veterinarian must be able to inform and educate farmers about the required waiting period before food products, such as milk, eggs or meat, can be used safely. Otherwise, illegal and possibly unsafe drug residues may occur and the food will have to be discarded, Vickroy said.
Veterinarians or producers who cause repeated violations of drug regulations run the risk of being fined or even forced to cease operation by the FDA, he added.
“With this app, they are able to look up the information in real time, wherever they are,” he said. “They have what they need right there at their fingertips.”
Many positive comments are already coming into FARAD regarding the application, along the lines of “it’s about time,” or “we needed this,” Vickroy said.
FARAD also hosts free call centers that are managed through weekly rotations by the other participating veterinary institutions, the University of California/Davis; Kansas State University and North Carolina State University. The program is supported financially primarily through grants from the US Department of Agriculture, but has received invaluable political support from the American Veterinary Medical Association.
“Without AVMA’s commitment to the program, it would have likely been terminated due to the lack of sustainable funding,” Vickroy said.
The two primary roles of FARAD are prevention of circumstances that can produce unsafe residues of drugs in human foods derived from animals, and to mitigate risks following accidental exposure of food animals to harmful chemicals from a wide variety of sources. A major effort of FARAD involves gathering, analyzing and mathematically modeling data as a means to predict the dissipation of chemicals from food-producing animals. Vickroy said FARAD has amassed the single largest repository of scientific data in the world on the pharmacokinetics of chemicals in food-producing animals.
“These data are used in conjunction with predictive mathematical models to develop risk estimates and safe withdrawal intervals, if there are any, following accidental chemical exposure of animals,” Vickroy said.