19 January 1996

OP dip sale brake?

GOVERNMENT is to consider new restrictions on sales of organophosphorus sheep dips in response to MPs concern over their health effects.

A Commons select committee inquiry into the MAFF agencies responsible for licensing pesticides and veterinary medicines recommended that OP sheep dips should be classified as prescription-only products (News, Nov 3).

POM status should stay, it said, "until the outcome of the governments research project into the possible chronic effects of OP sheep dips on humans is known".

In its response, published on Wednesday, government said the move "will be considered in the current review of OP dips due to completed in spring 1996".

The move follows figures released by MAFF which show OP chemicals were responsible for almost all cases of human suspected adverse reactions to vet medicines reported in 1994.

The governments response to the select committee inquiry also noted MPs concerns about public confidence in the objectivity of the Veterinary Medicines directorate, the agency responsible for licensing and monitoring adverse reactions.

"Discussions are in hand with organisations who may be in a position to take over responsibility for the human suspected adverse reaction surveillance scheme," government said.

It also accepted the MPs call for an independent chairman of the appraisal panel responsible for assessing reactions.

A report, published last week showed that in 1994 the panel considered 144 reports of human SARs. OP sheep dips were cited in 99 cases.

Commenting on the report junior farm minister, Angela Browning, said the 45 cases not related to OP sheep dips included suspected reactions to oil-based vaccines, flea collars and pour-on flea treatments for cats and dogs.

But MAFF later admitted that 31 of the 45 cases unrelated to OP sheep dips were in fact related to OP chemicals used in pet flea treatments.

Of the 99 reports related to OP dips one acute reaction was assessed as category 1. That meant clinical signs and symptoms typical of OP-exposure were verified by medical evidence.

Mrs Browning added that the panels conclusions "should not be considered to be a definitive clinical diagnosis".