Department considers ‘pros and cons’ of not permitting vets to sell medicines

Officials at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine are weighing up the “pros and cons” of changing veterinary rules to only allow vets prescribe medicines, but not sell them.

Speaking at a sitting of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine yesterday (Tuesday, February 9), Colm Forde, the department official in charge of veterinary medicines, said that such a model was one of several possibilities that were recommended by the Anti-parasitic Resistance Stakeholders Group.

The group was established to address challenges that might arise from a EU regulation requiring veterinary medicines – previously considered routine – to be prescribed from January 2022.

Towards the end of last year, as this fact became a topic of conversation, it gave rise to concern that it would reduce price competition in the veterinary medicine sector, concentrating the trade of veterinary medicine in the hands of veterinary practitioners and freezing out licensed merchants and others retailers.

Speaking at the committee meeting yesterday in response to a question from Fine Gael senator Tim Lombard, Forde said that the stakeholders group – consisting of licenced merchants, pharmacists and co-op organisations – had recommended, among several other things, not permitting vets to sell medicines, but only to prescribe them.

“One of the issues that some of our stakeholders highlighted was that if all of these medicines are now going to require prescription, then the best way of ensuring a competitive supply chain is if we break the link between prescribing and dispensing,” Forde told the committee.

So we committed to examining that as part of the Anti-parasitic Resistance Stakeholders Group. Some countries don’t allow vets to sell the medicines, they only allow them to prescribe them, so we said we would examine that.

He stressed, though, that this was only one of 46 actions that were undertaken as the part of the stakeholders group’s action plan, and that it was part of a broader consultation with stakeholders.

Senator Lombard noted that such a model would be similar to human medication, whereby a GP makes a prescription and a pharmacy provides the medicine. Forde agrees with this description, while again reiterating that it this model was not developed as a policy that could be rolled-out at this point.

Background

Technically, all veterinary medicines have required prescriptions in the EU since the early 2000s. However, Ireland had been availing of a derogation under this regulation that allowed veterinary medicines to be sold without prescription for use on food-producing animals, if the use of that medicine did not present a risk to human health.

However, this is set to change on foot of a 2019 report by the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA), which found that, due to increasing levels of resistance to anti-parasitic medicine in food-producing animals, Ireland no longer meets the criteria to avail of the derogation.

The derogation is due to cease effect in January 2022, at which point a range of veterinary medicines that can now be got without prescriptions will then require them.