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Bills to curb antibiotic use head to governor's desk

By Tiffany Lam | Special to the Almanac

The California Legislature recently sent to the governor two bills sponsored by Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, that will prohibit the use of antibiotics as growth enhancers in farm animals and promote more responsible use of antibiotics in humans.

Sen. Hill told the Almanac he is optimistic the bills will be signed. The bill involving antibiotic use in livestock is supported by the state's Department of Food and Agriculture, he noted, and that endorsement is a good indication that the bill is supported by the governor's office.

He said that in working on the bills, he worked closely with the California Hospital Association, which also supports the legislation.

Both bills passed unanimously in the state Senate and Assembly. Sen. Hill said his research indicates that, if the bills are signed, California would be the first state enacting into law such restrictions on antibiotic use.

Sen. Hill, whose District 13 includes most of San Mateo County and the northern portion of Santa Clara County, said a recent report by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) prompted his efforts to curb the overuse of antibiotics, which has led to greatly increased resistance to infections.

The CDC reports that more than 2 million Americans develop antibiotic resistance each year, and the drug-resistant infections kill about 23,000 annually. Up to 50 percent of antibiotics prescribed in this country are not needed or are improperly prescribed, according to the CDC.

Senate Bill 835 would allow antibiotics to be sold for use in livestock only for medical reasons. Antibiotics could be administered only with a prescription and under veterinary oversight. Currently, 70 percent of all antibiotics used nationwide are sold for use in livestock, and much of that use is for the sole purpose of fattening up the animals, according to the press release.

"The Food and Drug Administration says there is no scientific reason why antibiotics should be used to promote growth in livestock," Sen. Hill said in the release.

Senate Bill 1311 would require that all general acute care hospitals in California establish antimicrobial stewardship programs by July 1, 2015. Stewardship programs ensure that antibiotics are used only when necessary, that the right antibiotic is chosen, and that antibiotics are administered correctly.

Associate Editor Renee Batti contributed to this story.

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