Prescription-only fight stepped up

7 December 2001

Prescription-only fight stepped up

By Philip Clarke, Europe editor

AGRICULTURAL distributors are stepping up their campaign to fight off EU legislation making all animal health products prescription-only.

The proposed law would include low-risk medicines such as wormers and sheep dips.

Commission proposals have been formally submitted to the European parliament and member states.

They are expected to start working towards an agreement early in the New Year.

The Animal Health Distributors Association believes such a change in the status of low-risk medicines would be “a step in the wrong direction”.

Currently, such medicines can be sold over the counter in the UK.

“It will deter many farmers from treating their livestock, either through increased difficulty of supply or increased cost; it will compromise animal welfare; it will increase the use of high potency medicines; and it will damage the infrastructure of the rural economy,” it claims.

AHDA secretary general Roger Dawson has contacted all the UKs registered distributors.

He has urged them to write to their MEPs and MPs to try and head off the legislation.

“The formal process has now begun,” he says.

“There is no doubt that the Directive will be adopted, probably before the end of 2003.

“Therefore we must succeed in getting it amended.”

Mr Dawson believes the best opportunity is through the European parliaments environment committee.

He has already presented the UK trades view to French MEP, Francoise Grossetete, who is preparing a report for the parliament, and enlisted the support of other MEPs.

Some member states, such as Ireland, have similar systems to the UKs and are expected to join the fight.

But others, such as Germany, already insist on all veterinary products being prescription-only, and will support the proposed legislation.

AHDA maintains that making even low risk animal health products prescription-only medicines is disproportionate and of no food safety benefit.

“Residues of animal medicines in food are far lower in the UK than in countries where all animal medicines are prescription-only, several of which do not even publish the results of residue monitoring as we do,” it says.

Over-the-counter products account for about 25% of the 357 million animal health market in the UK.

Some 3500 qualified staff are employed to distribute them.

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