Antibiotic Resistance

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Why Advocates Say Brown’s Veto of Livestock Antibiotics Bill is a Good Thing

(iStock/Getty Images)

(iStock/Getty Images)

By Joe Rubin

Senate Bill 835 was crafted as a measure aimed at limiting antibiotic use in livestock. To those concerned about the growing problem of antibiotic resistance, it might seem surprising that Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed the bill earlier this week. Yet advocates believe that in striking down the bill, California is poised to take a leading role on the issue.

‘The governor sent a message that he isn’t going to accept fig-leaf solutions to tackle this problem.’ — Natural Resources Defense Council spokesman    

Here’s why: Critics had assailed the bill as too industry-friendly and unlikely to make much impact on antibiotic resistance.

SB835 would have codified a recent Food and Drug Administration voluntary ban on the use of antibiotics for growth-promoting purposes. The measure had sailed through the Legislature. But a coalition, including the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), Consumers Union and several leading medical experts on antibiotic resistance, quietly created a campaign urging the governor to veto the bill. Continue reading

Why Advocacy Groups Oppose Bill Limiting Use of Antibiotics in Animals

The California Public Interest Research Group held a press conference opposing the bill last week in Berkeley.

Garo Manjikian and Corie Radka of CALPIRG speak at a press conference opposing SB835 in Berkeley on Wednesday. CALPIRG is among a dozen organizations calling on the California legislature to take stronger action regulating the use of antibiotics in livestock. (Courtesy: CALPIRG)

By Joe Rubin

Amid growing concern of the use of antibiotics in livestock, California’s Assembly will consider on  Monday a bill to limit their use. But a coalition of a dozen health and consumer advocacy groups — the very groups that often back such measures — are pressing lawmakers to vote it down. The groups say the bill is not aggressive enough and want California to take a more forceful role in the way antibiotics are regulated in meat production.

The bill, SB 835, sponsored by San Mateo Senator Jerry Hill, is an endorsement of last year’s Food and Drug Administration policy shift. The FDA has asked drug companies to voluntarily stop distributing anti-microbial drugs used for the purpose of fattening animals. Around 80 percent of all antibiotics in the U.S are used in the livestock industry. Drug companies say they are complying with the new guidelines.

But critics say the Hill bill, like the FDA guidelines, leaves a glaring loophole. Many of the antibiotics used for growth promotion are also used for disease prevention, making for more of a label change than a fundamental shift, critics say. Indeed drugs like tylosin, which have been used for decades as a growth-promoting feed additive for pigs and cows, remain readily available and in use. Continue reading

California Legislature To Consider Antibiotic Ban in Animals

Stanford University Infectious Disease Specialist David Relman with Assemblyman Kevin Mullin looking on (Jeff Walters/Assembly Democratic Caucus).

Stanford University Infectious Disease Specialist David Relman with Assemblyman Kevin Mullin looking on (Jeff Walters/Assembly Democratic Caucus).

By Joe Rubin

A new bill in the California Legislature could give California the distinction of going where the federal government hasn’t — more strictly regulating the way that livestock are given antibiotics.

But freshman state Assemblyman Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco), who is introducing state Assembly Bill 1437, says getting it through the agricultural committee is a bit of long shot.

More than 70 percent of all antibiotics in the U.S. are given to animals, often to healthy livestock. Until very recently drug companies marketed the growth-promoting benefits of antibiotics. And many meat producers, keen for additional profits and assured by pharmaceutical companies that the practice was safe for people and animals, would routinely add antibiotics to feed.

In December, the Food and Drug Administration, after years of debate on the issue, asked drug companies to voluntarily stop marketing the growth-promoting benefits of antibiotics out of concerns for public health. The companies are largely complying. But critics like the Natural Resources Defense Council and New York Times food writer Mark Bittman have criticized the FDA’s approach as lax and unlikely to lead to any real change.

Continue reading

Inappropriate Use of Antibiotics on Decline; Still a Ways to Go

(David Kalsbeek/Flickr)

More than two dozen American health organizations — including the Centers for Disease Control and the American Academy of Pediatrics for starters — are banding together to fight the overuse of antibiotics. In new research, Extending the Cure, a DC-based policy group aiming to reduce inappropriate use or antibiotics, found prescribing rates dropped 17 percent nationally — and 24 percent here in California — from 1999 to 2010.

For a refresher: remember that antibiotics fight bacterial infections; they are useless the common cold or influenza — those are caused by viruses.

Those lower prescribing rates make a difference, not just in avoiding medicines that won’t help you — or could even hurt you. All drugs have side effects, after all. Reduced use of antibiotics means reduced creation of superbugs. “For many pathogens,” said Ramanan Laxminarayan, director of Extending the Cure, “resistance rates are lower in California than other states.” Continue reading