Vets reassured about local anaesthetic shortage

Industry leaders have reassured vets over supplies of local anaesthetic amid reports of practices only being able to source a fraction of the drugs required. 

Concerns over the limited availability of procain hydrochloride – the only product licensed for local anaesthesia in farm animals – should end in May 2019 when supply is expected to return to normal, say the the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD).

Unforeseen issues with the supply of raw materials are being blamed for the shortage. 

Alternatives are available (see below), but veterinary leaders have voiced concern at short anaesthetic supplies at this time of year, when lots of lambing, calving and youngstock operations take place on farms, meaning farmers could be affected.

On Monday (1 April) the VMD issued vets with advice on sourcing products via the cascade process if necessary, whereby vets are offered flexibility through a three-step system, culminating, if necessary, with importing drugs.

Until then vets are advised to do the following:

  • Consider using Pronestesic, which is a procaine hydrochloride product currently available for UK suppliers
  • Prioritise the product for more serious operations – for example, caesareans
  • Delay disbudding and castration in the short term if necessary
  • Apply for a special import certificate to bring in products from the EU as a last resort

See also: How a beef farmer used EBVs to increase profit a cow by £360

Busy period

Some veterinary practices have only been able to source a fraction of the drugs needed, the British Veterinary Association (BVA) has revealed.

The BVA told Farmers Weekly the shortage was not believed to be linked Brexit. 

The drug is the only licensed product for local anaesthetic in production animals and is available from vets only, but can be administered – usually via injection – by farmers.

Alternative options for vets

  • Pronestesic: 40mg/ml/0.036 mg/ml solution for injection for horses, cattle pigs and sheep (Vm 11557/4002) is currently available
  • Cascade option: Vets have been told to make “diligent attempts” to source UK authorised product before considering importing alternative medicines.

In a press release, BVA president Simon Doherty said the shortage could have a very acute effect on farm animal welfare.

He added: “Although we had moved to get assurances sooner, we appreciate there are formal routes for reporting and that the announcement of any shortage must be handled sensitively to avoid exacerbating the problem.

“VMD’s clarification is especially timely as this is a period of peak seasonal demand for these products. We will keep our members closely informed of any further developments.”