Myth: New EU rules are preventing human medicines being used on both farms and domestic animals, unless they are spearately tested for animal use – thereby forcing up the price of animal medicines by up to 1,000 per cent and putting the lives of animals in peril.
Source: BB1 ‘Watchdog’ (27 February 1995), Daily Mail (20 March 1995, p.23)
Truth: The relevant EU Directive*, which came into force in the UK on 1 January 1995, seeks to improve consumer protection and animal health care.
It seeks to protect consumers by ensuring that the appropriate medicinal products are authorised when used in specific meat and dairy products. Furthermore it reinforces this measure by outlining minimum withdrawal periods (being the time between any medicine being administered and its placing on the market) so that harmful residues do not reach the consumer. This is 7 days for eggs and milk, 28 days for meat and poultry and 500 degree days for fish meat.
The Directive applies equally to farm animals and domestic pets. The earlier 1981 Directive offered guarantees that animals would be treated with the appropriate, safe and afficacious medicinal products. It obliges vets to prescribe specific drugs certified for specific conditions and specific species and did not allow the use of products other than those authorised. The 1990 Directive offers more flexibility in the prescription of medicinal products in animals, establishing a “cascade system” which permits the use of human medicines in special circumstances, such as when the veterinary drugs are not available.
The cascade system enables vets to prescribe, according to the following sequence:
– veterinary products, licensed in the Member State concerned, for the same condition in another species or for another condition in the same species;
– products authorised in the Member State for use in humans;
– a medicine to be made at the time of a one-off basis by a vet or properly authorised person.
There is, however, no reason why these measures should influenec the prices of animal medication. While some branded products for animals of humans are generally more expensive than their equivalent generics, and while very few veterinary products are currently licensed, the benefits of the new system ought to outweight possible higher costs for animal health care.
* 90/676 of 13.12.90 (OJ L373, 31.12.90), amending Directive 81/851 of 28.9.81 (OJ L317, 6.11.81)