VMD Q&A: What farmers are asking

WHAT are the worries surrounding new rules being considered by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate which could, it is feared, take key information away from farmers when it comes to making choices about health planning? WILLIAM SURMAN and JACK DAVIES report.


What are the Veterinary Medicines Regulations?

The European Union’s Veterinary Medicines Regulations (VMRs) came into force in 2005. They are meant to ensure the safe distribution and application of animal medicines across the EU.

Why are they being changed?

Every year the VMRs are revoked, allowing the Veterinary Medicines Directorate to make changes before they are reintroduced. Last June industry stakeholders agreed the VMD should continue with its annual review.

What are the new proposals?

The VMD has proposed a ban on marketing antimicrobial medicines directly to farmers.  Under the proposals antibiotics will only be advertised to veterinary surgeons, veterinary nurses and pharmacists.

What justification does the VMD give for the advertising ban?

The VMD says the use of antimicrobials in veterinary medicine may result in antimicrobial resistance.  This may then lead to antimicrobial drugs becoming ineffective, with resulting poor animal health and welfare.  

There are further concerns that antimicrobial resistance developing in farmed animals may be transmitted through the food chain and lead to infections which are hard to treat in humans. There is, however, a lack of scientific evidence to back this up.

The VMD also claims vets are being put under pressure by farmers to ‘prescribe new products that provide economic benefits while established older products may still be a better therapeutic choice for the treatment of animal infections’. This, it claims, can lead to the premature development of resistance to a new generation of antimicrobials.

How long will the consultation last?

The formal consultation package was published on June 18, 2010 and will run until September 10. It is intended that the new rules will come into force on December 1, 2010.

How can I contribute to the consultation?

The VMD is keen to hear from anybody likely to be affected by the new rules. Comments should be sent to Lorna Shelley at l.shelley@vmd.defra.gsi.gov.uk

Show your support

You can show your support for our campaign by joining our Facebook group.

Alternatively, write to your MP and outline your opposition to the VMD’s plans.

With enough support we hope we can convince Ministers to drop their plans and accept that farmers are highly skilled, trained professionals and have a right to all the information when it comes to animal medicines.

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