Group forms to defend agri merchants’ rights to dispense LM vet medicines

A new organisation has been formed to safeguard the rights of agricultural merchants to prescribe and dispense certain veterinary medicines ahead of the implementation of new EU regulations which are coming down the track.

The Independent Licensed Merchants Association (ILMA) was formed specifically to “ensure the rights of the Responsible Person (RP) are protected and that the RP will continue to prescribe and dispense veterinary medicines classified as LM (licensed merchant) after the EU Regulation 2019/6 reaches the date of applicability on January 28, 2022”.

The organisation

An ILMA spokesperson said the organisation consists of a number of independent merchants “who meet voluntarily to discuss strategy and actions to bring pressure to bear on the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine to ensure the future of the RP remains secure and viable”.

“The ILMA represent independent merchants that employ over 3,000 employees,” the representative said.

They have been trained and passed a QQI [Quality & Qualifications Ireland] level 6 examination, funded by themselves or their employers in order to advise and dispense these medicines for food producing animals [typically all wormers, flukicides, horse wormers, ecto parasitic products for fly control and sheep dip and cocciodiostats].

Currently animal owners purchase 75% of these medicines sales from RP companies, the association says.

The group is also represented on the department’s anti parasitic resistance stakeholders forum.

The issue

According to the merchants’ group, the incoming EU regulation requires all member states to make all veterinary medicines for food producing animals prescription only and that a prescription can only be written by a vet.

At present the group of LM (licensed merchant) medicines dispensed by RPs may be exempted from a veterinary prescription, it was noted.

At the time this was decided the Irish Department of Agriculture was on the committee that inserted this clause but did not defend the ‘exempt’ status of the LM medicines, the ILMA alleges.

However, an additional derogation clause permits professional persons to issue a veterinary prescription providing they were doing so when the regulation came into force.

The association quotes: Article 105(4) specifies that ‘a member state may allow a veterinary prescription to be issued by a professional, other than a veterinarian, who is qualified to do so in accordance with applicable national law at the time of entry into force of this regulation.

‘Such prescriptions will be valid only in that member state and shall exclude prescriptions of anti-microbial medicinal products and any other veterinary medicinal products where a diagnosis by a veterinarian is necessary,’ the derogation states.

On this point, the association says: “ILMA has provided the Department of Agriculture with extensive evidence to prove the RP has been correctly prescribing these products since 2006.

“Thus ILMA is challenging the Department of Agriculture to accept the facts and adopt the derogation clause.”

The consequences

“By excluding the RP as a LM prescriber a substantial, trusted, knowledgeable and trained body of professional persons will be prevented from advising when dispensing LM medicines,” the association spokesperson warned.

Furthermore the livestock owner will face increased costs of medicines purchase, restricted availability and an unfair, anti competitive advantage created in favour of the vet.

“The resulting closure of stores, rural unemployment and damage to the rural economy would cause intense political consequences and hardship.

“The UK in Northern Ireland has a system similar to the existing system in Ireland and cross border availability without vet prescription will become an unmanageable issue.

“Legal opinion supports the RP has a right to continue to prescribe these LM medicines and that this can continue within the scope of the EU regulation,” the ILMA representative concluded.