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A Harsh Reminder of Micotil’s Danger

For nearly 25 years, the antibiotic tilmicosin phosphate, sold under the trade name Micotil, has been helping livestock producers combat bovine respiratory disease (BRD). Manufactured by Elanco, millions of doses have been administered safely by veterinarians and producers alike. 

“Although Micotil is a prescription drug, it is routinely used by producers to protect the health of cattle,” says Grant Dewell, Iowa State University beef Extension veterinarian. 

Yet, accidents do happen. The effects of Micotil on the human heart, including a reduced cardiac contractility and tachycardia (rapid heartbeat), can be severe enough to cause death.

Humans may be exposed through needlestick injuries, skin cuts, puncture wounds, and contact with skin and mucous membranes.

. Included in that number is Iowa farmer Ryan Handlos. His death on April 2, 2016, is a harsh reminder of how lethal this drug can be to humans. 

“Micotil is used less today than it was 15 years ago because of other antibiotics that have been approved in the last 10 years that do not have the safety concerns that Micotil does,” says Dewell. “However, there is still a place for Micotil in beef production to assure the health of cattle.”

If you use Micotil, here are 12 tips to keep you and your workers safe and to alert you to what to do in case of an accident.

  1. Know directions. Read, understand, and follow label directions and the information sheet provided with each bottle.
  2. Gear up. Wear goggles and impermeable, needle puncture­-resistant gloves. Wash your hands after handling Micotil.
  3. Use the buddy system. Never work alone when handling or injecting Micotil. 
  4. Choose your syringe wisely. Micotil should not be used in an automatic syringe. If a syringe is broken or damaged in any way, stop using it and replace it immediately. Elanco provides the Sekurus safety syringe, with self-tenting and needle-guard features, free of charge to veterinarians and producers.
  5. Use a prep area. Fill syringes in a designated area. Children should not be allowed in this area.
  6. Dose one at a time. Never fill one syringe to inject several animals. Use a separate syringe for each ani­mal.
  7. Know your needle. Always use a 16- to 18-gauge needle that is ½ inch to ⅝ inch long. “Always keep needles properly covered until ready to use,” advises Elanco’s Julie Lawless. “You should also exercise caution and care when removing a needle from a syringe so as not to pierce your skin with the needle.”
  8. Handle with care. Place filled syringes in a puncture-proof carrying case before you move to the animal. Never place or carry a loaded syringe in a pocket, in oth­er clothing, or in your mouth.
  9. Clean up spills. To avoid any accidental contact with Micotil, spills should be cleaned up immediately.
  10. Restrain animals properly. When an animal is confined correctly, it’s easier – and safer – to manage its unpredictable nature.
  11. Seek immediate medical attention. There is no antidote to counteract the effects of Micotil. If an injection occurs, apply ice to the injection site and seek immediate medical attention.
  12. Post emergency numbers. Clearly post the emergency numbers listed below for quick access.
    • 911 or dial 0 (operator) and report the emer­gency and specific location.
    • Rocky Mountain Poison Control and Drug Center: 800/332-3073. This center has been trained by Elanco to handle emergencies specific to Micotil exposure. Assistance is available in both English and Spanish.
    • Elanco medical emergency hotline: 800/428-4441 (English only).
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