5 May 1995

MAFFheavies lean on vets in medicine affair

By Liz Mason

A MAFF agency, responsible for licensing animal medicines, has attempted to blackmail and intimidate vets, MPs have been told.

Written evidence submitted to the House of Commons agriculture select committee alleges that MAFF officers were involved in an attempt "to intimidate vets on the Scottish borders".

The Veterinary Medicines Directorate, with others, also attempted to "blackmail" vets into applying MAFF restrictions on the supply of organophosphorus sheep dips, the evidence claims.

Vets supplying OP dips were warned that new rules would be introduced if they continued to sell OP dips to farmers who had not enrolled for a certificate of competence.

The Scottish Borders vets were visited by former police officers working for the VMD after they refused to use products specifically licensed to treat "watery mouth" in young lambs.

The vets formed a buying group, involving more than six practices, after they were unable to get essential drug supplies on time. They arranged for a chemical company to produce the combined antibiotic product for them under licence.

After complaints from the pharmaceutical industry "we had a visit from the heavy mob – the gestapo at the VMD", said one vet who asked not to be named.

The group were told they were breaking the law and could be accused of "collusion and corruption". Investigations have since cleared the vets but the chemical company involved with the group will be prosecuted.

Evidence to the select committee suggests that the VMD is perceived as being "in the pocket of the pharmaceutical companies". MPs are also warned of "suspicions" that the animal medicines licensing system may be operating as a "politically useful tool and compromising its allegedly independent status".