19 April 2002

Watchdog action on vet rebates

COMPETITION watchdogs are to investigate whether a complicated system of discounts and rebates offered by animal medicine manufacturers to vets is leading to farmers charged more for drugs than they should be.

The issue has been identified by the Competition Commission as one it will investigate as part of its inquiry into the supply of prescription-only veterinary medicines within the UK. The commission will report in January.

The commission published an "issues" document on Tuesday (Apr 16) outlining over 40 areas which it believes need further investigation. Some of these are to do with the regulatory framework in place while other are connected to the way veterinary medicine manufacturers and vets operate.

Another area the commission will be looking into is whether a reduction in the number of veterinary practices dealing with large animals has led to a hike in medicine prices. &#42

"Farmers have increasingly in many areas of the UK there may only be a single practice specialising in large animals," it said. "The issue is whether a lack of local competition leads to higher prices for medicines."

NFU inputs adviser Jonathan Pettit said there were few surprises in the document but the union was pleased the authorities were still looking into the subject. "We are trying to get a bit more transparency into the market."