FDA Regulation of Animal Drugs

Sep. 14, 2022

A Brief Overview of FDA's Legal Marketing Statuses for Animal Drugs
Classifying Rx and OTC Drugs
Dispensing Veterinary Prescription Drugs
Requirements for Labeling On Manufactured Prescription Animal Drugs
Unapproved Animal Drugs
Compounding Animal Drugs
Extra-Label Use of FDA Approved Drugs In Animals
Information about Extra-Label Use of Specific Drug Products
How to Report Animal Drug and Device Side Effects and Product Problems

Animal Drug Shortage Information

A Brief Overview of FDA's Legal Marketing Statuses for Animal Drugs

Under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (the“Act”), the term "drug" means articles recognized in the official United States Pharmacopoeia, official Homeopathic Pharmacopoeia of the United States, or official National Formulary; articles intended for use in the diagnosis, cure, mitigation, treatment, or prevention of disease in man or other animals; and articles other than food intended to affect the structure or any function of the body of man or other animals. It also includes articles intended for use as a component of a drug.

Once a product is determined to be a drug for animal use, the next step is to determine whether or not it is a new animal drug. The Act defines a new animal drug (in part) as any drug intended for use for animals other than man, the composition of which is not generally recognized, among experts qualified by scientific training and experience, as safe and effective for use under the conditions prescribed, recommended, or suggested in its labeling. By virtue of Supreme Court interpretations of the necessary basis for general recognition, there are, for all practical purposes, no animal drugs which are not also new animal drugs.

Under the Act, a new animal drug may not be legally introduced into interstate commerce unless it is the subject of either: 

an approved new animal drug application (NADA) or abbreviated new animal drug application (ANADA) under section 512 of the Act; 

a conditional approval under section 571 of the Act;

a listing on the Legally Marketed Unapproved New Animal Drug Index for Minor Species (the Index) under section 572 of the Act;

an emergency use authorization (EUA) under section 564 of the Act (an EUA may only be issued under very limited circumstances, more information regarding EUAs is available at this webpage: Emergency Use Authorization) ; or

an investigational exemption under section 512(j) of the Act. 

Three Pathways to Legal Marketing Status


An approved animal drug has gone through the New Animal Drug Application (NADA) process, or for an approved generic animal drug, the Abbreviated New Animal Drug Application (ANADA) process. If the information in the application meets the requirements for approval, FDA approves the animal drug. FDA’s approval means the drug is safe and effective when it is used according to the label. FDA’s approval also ensures that the drug’s strength, quality, and purity are consistent from batch to batch, and that the drug’s labeling is truthful, complete, and not misleading.

Learn more about the NADA and ANADA approval processes as well as the requirements for an investigational exemption by visiting the following webpage:

From an Idea to the Marketplace: The Journey of an Animal Drug through the Approval Process

Conditional Approval

Conditional approval is only available for some animal drugs for use in a minor species or in a major species under special circumstances. A conditionally approved animal drug has gone through FDA's drug approval process except the drug has not yet met the effectiveness standard for full approval. FDA’s conditional approval means that when used according to the label, the drug is safe and has a “reasonable expectation of effectiveness.” FDA's conditional approval also means that the drug is properly manufactured.

The conditional approval is valid for one year. The drug company can ask FDA to renew the conditional approval annually for up to four more years, for a total of five years of conditional approval. During the 5-year period, the drug company can legally sell the animal drug while collecting the remaining effectiveness data. After collecting the remaining effectiveness data, the company submits an application to FDA for full approval. The agency reviews the application and, if appropriate, fully approves the drug.

Learn more about the conditional drug approval process by visiting the following webpage:

Conditional Approval Explained: A Resource for Veterinarians


An indexed animal drug is a drug on FDA’s Index of Legally Marketed Unapproved New Animal Drugs for Minor Species, referred to simply as “the Index.” As the name says, a drug listed on the Index is unapproved but has legal marketing status. It can be legally sold for a specific use in certain minor species. Indexing is allowed for drugs for:

Non-food-producing minor species, such as pet birds, hamsters, and ornamental fish. These animals are typically not eaten by people or by other animals that produce food for people to eat; and

An early non-food life stage of a food-producing minor species, such as oyster spat (immature oysters). Because people do not generally eat oyster spat, a drug to treat a disease in spat can be indexed, but a drug to treat a disease in adult oysters, which people commonly eat, cannot be indexed.

Indexing a drug is quite different from the drug approval process. Indexing relies heavily on a panel of qualified experts outside FDA. The experts review the drug’s safety in the specific minor species and the drug’s effectiveness for the intended use. All experts on the panel must agree that, when used according to the label, the drug’s benefits outweigh the risks to the treated animal. If FDA agrees with the panel, the agency adds the drug to the Index.

Learn more about indexing by visiting the following webpage:

Drug Indexing 

More Information

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Source from FDA

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