9 March 2001

Vets hamper cheap drug use

OBTAINING low cost prescription medicines following the opening of a veterinary drugs pharmacy is being hampered, with vets reluctant to write prescriptions in many cases.

The recently opened Notts-based pharmacy, Veterinary Drugs to Go, offers delivery across mainland Britain. So far, 300 producers have registered on the web-site, says its company director and vet Jim Brodie.

It was set up to pre-empt the recommendations of the current independent review on dispensing vet medicines, he says. "We concluded that, at the very least, the clients legal right to ask for a prescription would be emphasised."

Prices should be highly competitive with its greater buying power and low overhead costs. It can supply general sales list items and pharmacy and merchants list products (PMLs), but more contentious is the supply of prescription only medicines (POMs). POMs can only be dispatched to producers on receipt of a vet prescription, for animals under that vets care.

"However, vets are reluctant to write scripts and producers do not want to upset their vets by asking for them. The feedback we are getting is that many vets are still saying no, rather than why, when asked for a prescription."

In a letter to the Vet Record, John Blackwell, chairman of the British Cattle Vet Association medicine committee, admits the association has received many requests for information on the issue.

BCVA believes vets should not meet a request for a prescription with obstruction. But it recommends discussing the effects this may have on the long term provision of service to clients.

Vets have not tried to hide the fact that there is cross-subsidy of professional services to clients from the margins derived from medicine sales, says Mr Blackwell. Either the level of service will suffer if producers buy medicines elsewhere or fees and visit charges will have to increase.

But Mr Brodie believes vets should cut drug margins. "Vets should charge competitive fees and reduce drug margins, otherwise producers will turn to alternative sources of medicines, including illegal imports.

"Many vets may be better charging £5 for a prescription and forgetting about carrying expensive drug stocks and dispensing themselves."

Mr Brodie expects vets to charge £10-£15 a prescription, however, there are no pre-determined charges for vets to write them.

In addition, the BCVA points out that prescriptions should only cover drugs for a 31-day period, such as providing only enough dry cow therapy for cows due for drying off in a particular month. &#42