Warning over long-term shortage of mastitis antibiotics

A shortage of two of the UK’s most popular antibiotic mastitis treatments is set to continue into 2021, veterinary experts have warned.

The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) said issues that have dogged the antibiotics supply chain throughout 2020 had not been resolved.

Eight treatments, including market leading products Synulox and Tetra-Delta intramammary suspensions are affected (see table).

See also: How to dry off cows to treat mastitis successfully

While some manufacturers are aiming to reintroduce products before next year, it may take until next spring before supplies of these two are fully available.

Affected products

Product Anticipated resolution date (subject to change)
Synulox Lactating Cow Intramammary Suspension (42058/4143)  First quarter of 2021
Tetra-Delta Intramammary Suspension (42058/4152)  First half of 2021
Ubro Yellow Milking Cow Intramammary Suspension (08327/4305) Product discontinued – no return date
Multiject IMM Intramammary Suspension (02000/4062)  January 2021
Albiotic 330mg/100mg Intramammary Solution (30282/4035)  Beginning of October 2020
Mastiplan LC, 300mg/20mg Intramammary Suspension (01708/4534) Mid-September 2020
Cobactan MC Intramammary Suspension for Lactating Cows (01708/4444)* End of September 2020
Combiclav Intramammary Suspension for Lactating Cows (02000/4424) November 2020

The shortages have been blamed on a combination of strict quality testing and difficulties in obtaining component ingredients.

Testing regimes are precise and minute discrepancies mean some products fail safety or quality checks each year.

However, a disruption to component availability, unrelated to the Covid-19 crisis, has compounded the issue and caused supply lines to come to a halt.

The VMD has urged farmers to work with their vets to establish quantities of products they need and to switch to another brand where necessary.

The directorate has also suggested vets could be permitted to import medicines as long as all efforts to find suitable UK products had first been exhausted.

However, it warned licences would only be issued if there was a need to tackle a precise pathogen, with an appropriate antibiotic, in a particular situation. And it warned that vets and farmers must also show practical steps had been taken to combat the disease before a licence could be granted.

Cost or convenience are not valid reasons for imports and antibiotics should not be used to compensate for poor hygiene, inadequate husbandry and lax biosecurity, the VMD said.

BVA concern

The British Veterinary Association (BVA) said it was aware of a supply shortage of a number of intramammary antibiotics for lactating cows.

James Russell, BVA president, told Farmers Weekly: “There is always a concern that if vets cannot get hold of certain medications, it could have an effect on animal health and welfare.

“We would advise farmers to consult their vet in case of concerns and follow their advice. We will be keeping our members closely informed of any further developments.”

Sioned Timothy, ruminant technical manager at Boeheringer Ingelheim Animal Health, said the supply disruption was extremely unusual.

“Every year there are some issues with testing, but this normally only affects one or two products at any one time. To have affected eight products at once is very unusual indeed,” Miss Timothy said. However, she urged farmers not to panic.

The veterinary pharmaceutical industry has joined forces and stepped up the production of alternatives to limit any difficulties. It is also working alongside vets and farmers to provide advice, Miss Timothy said.

The available product list is available on the VMD website.

The following lactating cow intramammary products have been reported as available for veterinary surgeons to purchase:

Lactating cow intramammary products available for veterinary surgeons to purchase

Product Contact details
Ubropen 600 mg Intramammary Suspension for Lactating Cows (42810/4000) Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health UK Ltd 01344 746 957 or vetenquiries@boehringer-ingelheim.com
Ubrolexin Intramammary Suspension for Lactating Dairy Cows (08327/4306) Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health UK Ltd 01344 746 957 or vetenquiries@boehringer-ingelheim.com
Procapen Injector 3g intramammary suspension for cattle (24745/4023) FORTE Healthcare Limited +353 1 841 7666 or m.scott@fortehealthcare.com
Orbenin L.A. 200mg Intramammary Suspension (42058/4090) Zoetis UK Limited 0845 300 8034 or customersupportuk@zoetis.com
Pathocef 250mg Intramammary Suspension (42058/4094)* Zoetis UK Limited 0845 300 8034 or customersupportuk@zoetis.com
Cefimam LC, 75 mg Intramammary Ointment for Lactating Cows (02000/4387)* Norbrook Laboratories Ltd 01359 741 147 or GBenquiries@norbrook.co.uk
*Denotes highest-priority critically important antibiotics for human medicine and, under the Red Tractor farm assurance scheme for beef and dairy, should be used as a last resort and supported by sensitivity and/or diagnostic testing.