New vet prescription rules, that were set to come into force in January, will now be deferred until June, it has emerged.

The Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS) said that this was confirmed to it in a meeting with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine today (Wednesday, November 24).

ICOS has welcomed the deferral of the rules for prescriptions until the new national online e-prescription system becomes fully operational.

The new measures, requiring that all dosing products and medicated feeds should have a prescription and must be purchased from a trained individual in co-ops, veterinary pharmacies and veterinary practices, will now be deferred until June 1, 2022, ICOS said.

“This is a reasonable accommodation around our concerns,” Ray Doyle, livestock and environmental services executive with ICOS.

ICOS said it has expressed “alarm” to the department regarding the full development and industry integration of the new National Veterinary Prescribing System/database (NVPS); and the fact that the vet profession would not be compelled to issue electronic prescriptions on this system on the original proposed date of implementation of January 28.

“Any transition arrangement where a dual paper/electronic system is in operation would place a significant and unacceptable cost on co-operatives where personnel would require training in two systems,” Doyle said.

“Additionally, co-operatives would not be able to offer farmers alternatives or generic products if paper-based prescriptions were to remain widespread.

“The absence of an electronic prescription system would have left co-op branches at a competitive disadvantage compared to private veterinary practitioners who may prescribe products unique to their practices,” Doyle explained.

Doyle confirmed his understanding, from the meeting, that the department of and the Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) would meet over the coming weeks to discuss the offer of generic formulations in addition to alternative products to farmers after a prescription is issued.

ICOS has asked that, until HPRA and all software providers are integrated onto the new system, full implementation of the veterinary regulation cannot be implemented in full.

Therefore, both the HPRA and the department need to be have their positions in place and to be fully aligned by June 1 on this issue.

“[The new rules] require the widest availability of veterinary medicinal products to farmers to ensure fair market competition and to ensure timely administration of these products to animals requiring treatment,” Doyle stressed.

He concluded: “All we are seeking is a level playing pitch in relation to the intended purpose and implementation of the new regulation.”