Major probe into animal medicines

9 October 2001

Major probe into animal medicines

By FWi staff

THE Office of Fair Trading has ordered a major investigation into the market for prescription-only veterinary medicines.

The matter has been referred to the Competition Commission after evidence that UK prices are substantially higher than in other European countries.

John Vickers, OFT director general, said the Competition Commission had 15 months to report its findings to the Secretary of State.

“I am concerned by the high level of prices for prescription-only veterinary medicines and about possible restrictions on supply, said Mr Vickers.

It seems that competition in the market may not be working well.

It is now for the Competition Commission to examine the market in depth and how it is serving the needs of farmers and the public.

Farmers have long complained about the 200million-a-year sector, claiming that they are being overcharged for veterinary medicines.

A preliminary investigation by the OFT had given rise to concern that there is a lack of price transparency in the prescription-only medicines sector.

Medicines are often dispensed by vets in the course of treatment and may not be itemised separately, said OFT officials.

The preliminary investigation also uncovered evidence of reluctance by manufacturers to supply veterinary pharmacies.

Increased supply through pharmacies would allow price competition between them and vets, the OFT officials said.

The Competition Commission will examine whether a monopoly exists in the sector and, if so, whether it operates against farmers interests.

Prescription-only veterinary medicines are products which may be sold only by veterinary surgeons or veterinary practitioners.


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Welcoming the investigation, NFUS Vice President Peter Stewart said:

“We raised this important issue with the OFT because of serious concerns of
Scottish livestock producers who have to pay more for their veterinary
products than the majority of their competitors.

“Not only are these costs well out of line with the returns that livestock
producers receive for their animals, but the current prices compromise farm
animal health and welfare as well as the competitive position of the
Scottish livestock industry.

“NFU Scotland welcomed a report published earlier this year by a Government
appointed group carrying out an independent review of dispensing by
veterinary surgeons of prescription-only medicines. It called for
increased transparency in prices paid for animal medicines whilst not
removing the right of vets to dispense such medicines.

“We have already provided the OFT with evidence in their investigation and
we are pleased that they have seen fit to launch such a major investigation
into the pricing and supply of these products. Current prices jeopardise
the high health and welfare status of Scottish livestock farms.”


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