The president of the Veterinary Council of Ireland (VCI) has said that he hopes the expertise of licenced merchants will be retained after the onset of new EU veterinary medicine regulations.

Speaking at the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Joe Moffitt addressed concerns from various TDs and senators, including committee chair Jackie Cahill, over the regulations that will come into effect in January 2022.

Under these regulations, antiparasitic medicine that currently can be purchased by farmers from licenced merchants will require a prescription from a vet.

This has raised fears among some politicians over what role licenced merchants would have – if any – under such a regime.

However, at the committee meeting yesterday (Tuesday, April 27), Moffitt said of both licenced merchants and pharmacists: “We would hope that there expertise is retained at the dispensing end. There’s no real change to the supply routes envisaged in these regulations.

“We would expect that their knowledge and relationship with farmers, built up over the years, would be retained and would feed into the whole knowledge base that’s envisaged here.” Moffitt commented.

Deputy Cahill raised a concern that if farmers needed prescriptions for medicines that do not currently need them, this would be unfeasible in some situations – such at busy times of the year or when the medicine was urgently needed – as it would require the farmer to engage with the vet each time such a product was needed.

The Tipperary TD noted the disruption that this would potentially cause if the vet was on other calls or other duties; and queried if the vet would in fact be required to see the affected animals before determining if a prescription was necessary.

In answer to these points, the CEO and registrar of VCI Niamh Muldoon said it would not be necessary for the vet to call out to a farm to determine if a prescription was necessary and that, rather, the vet would be working off their own professional knowledge, and their familiarity with the farmer and herd in question.

Backing up his colleague’s point, Moffit said: “Farmers and vets have an ongoing relationship and when difficulties pop up they are able to manage to sort them out between them.”

Despite this, Cahill maintained that “unease remains” over how the system would work.