New vet medicine regulations ‘must maintain competition’ in supply to farmers

The new EU veterinary medicine regulation “has the potential to severely impact on competition” in the supply of anthelmintics (a group of antiparasitic drugs including wormers) to farmers, the Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) has warned.

The regulation also threatens the future viability of licensed merchant stores and veterinary pharmacies throughout the country if the Department of Agriculture doesn’t resolve the issue of prescribing these products, the organisation says.

Commenting, IFA Animal Health Committee chairman Pat Farrell said:

“The Health Products Regulatory Authority has determined that anthelmintics must be categorised as POM [prescription-only medicine] from 2022 onwards, which means a prescription will have to be issued before the product can be purchased.

This raises serious issues for the competitive supply of these products if ‘Suitably Qualified Persons’ in the licensed merchants are not allowed to prescribe these products for farmers.

Farrell said a derogation in the regulation allows for Suitably Qualified Persons in Northern Ireland and the UK to prescribe these products, and this must be facilitated for the supply of anthelmintics here.

“The Department of Agriculture cannot stand over the creation of a two-tier supply system on the island of Ireland that puts farmers here at a competitive disadvantage and jeopardises the future viability of licensed merchant stores and veterinary pharmacies who play a crucial role in supporting farmers and rural economies,” he said.

The Department of Agriculture has recently received clarification from the European Commission of the requirements of the regulation, “which has always been very clear”, the IFA claims.

The task for the Minister for Agriculture and our MEPs is to have the unique situation on the island of Ireland recognised by facilitating the prescribing of these products by Suitably Qualified Persons.

Farrell said failure to deliver this key requirement for farmers and the agri-sector will lead to: unregulated movement of products; the removal of vital competition in the supply of products; and the undermining of attempts to develop a coordinated national approach to better parasite control on farms.

A crucial recommendation is to maximise stakeholder involvement, the IFA says.

“If this anticompetitive measure is not addressed, it will hand control of all veterinary medicine usage to one service provider, who also acts as the prescriber, and has an economic interest in the supply of products,” the association said.

This is not credible in attempts to have better usage of these products on farms and cannot be allowed happen, the IFA stressed.