28 August 1998

Code forces vets to justify actions

ENSURING selection of the most appropriate medicine and making vets justify their reasons for prescribing drugs are the reasons behind the British Veterinary Associations new code of practice.

The code covers all aspects of medicine use for animals. Selecting the best medicines is one of its primary aims, but it also emphasises the vets role in handling the product and advising owners. Latest EU and UK legislation, linked with public concern about medicines in food-producing animals, requires the vet to justify his decisions.

Bob Stevenson, past president of the BVA, says that responsible use is the key to the new code

"The idea is to get medicines used resp-onsibly and therefore to remove any perceptions that animals are given medicines willy-nilly.

"This runs alongside the increasing groundswell that insists we get things right in terms of using animal medicines properly," he says. "Quality and food assurance schemes also need to have some kind of auditing scheme demonstrating that medicines are used in a particular way.

"Farmers have been quite good at following rules, but there is now a need to show we are using medicines properly, for the reasons we need them for, and are not just using them in case," says Mr Stevenson.

"Producers must be able to show what happened to any medicine purchased, which animals were treated and in what situations."

Pressure from consumers is, to some extent, running ahead of legislation. While the new code is written for vets, because they have their clients animals in their care, it echoes much that can be found in assurance schemes.

"The BVA became aware of the need to make sure that both vets and their farmer clients understand important aspects of medicine use, particularly antibiotics."

He insists it is the vets job to make treatment clear, and producers should follow instructions to the letter. "Farmers must avoid arbitrary decisions about medication."

A key element in demonstrating that medicines are used responsibly is the animal medicine record book. Completing this is a statutory requirement and it can be inspected at intervals by the local trading standards authority.

Mr Stevenson says there is no better method of checking that the book is being properly kept than for the farm vet to sign it when he calls on farm. He urges that it is made a matter of routine. This procedure is already increasingly demanded by assurance schemes.

"Is there a better way of ensuring that medicines are being used for the reasons and at the doses vets prescribed them for?" he asks. "Its also useful for the vet because it allows him to inspect which medicine has been given, and for what diseases." &#42

COMMON FARM FAULTS

&#8226 Lack of care about product selection.

&#8226 Getting label dose rates wrong.

&#8226 Inadequate storage security and hygiene.

&#8226 Failure to understand vets instructions.

&#8226 Failure to observe withholding times.

A new vet code of practice aims to ensure the most appropriate medicine is selected.