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Press releases

Safeguarding the future of animal health through the Veterinary Medicines Review

Daniel Zeichner MP pictured with NOAH's Head of International and Regulatory Affairs, Donal Murphy


5 min read Partner content

Following a recent parliamentary drop-in event, NOAH set out how we can deliver a thriving Animal Health Sector through the GB Veterinary Medicines Regulations Review.

The Great Britain Veterinary Medicines Regulations Review (VMR) represents a pivotal moment for the animal health sector, ten years since the current VMR regulatory legislation was put in place. This is undoubtedly a welcome opportunity to shape new proposals to allow our animal health sector to truly thrive. It is vital that time is allocated for the VMR legislation to be debated and passed during this Parliamentary session.

We have consulted widely with member companies and submitted a detailed submission to the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD)’s consultation on the new draft GB regulations. We welcome many of the proposals, but whilst they are a positive step forward, concerns remain over the impact some aspects will have on the availability of veterinary medicines and associated risks to animal and public health, animal welfare and sustainability in Britain.

In a recent parliamentary drop-in event, kindly sponsored by Daniel Zeichner MP, Shadow Minister (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs), we had the opportunity to engage directly with key parliamentarians and convey our proposals and the crucial messages laid out below.

Representing 97% of the UK animal medicines market, which provides over 4000 skilled jobs in the UK, NOAH - the National Office of Animal Health, recommends a number of changes to the proposed legislation that will genuinely improve how the regulations will support a successful animal health sector, and the health and welfare of the nation’s animals.

Reducing Regulatory Burden

While the VMR proposals aim to reduce regulatory burden, they only partially achieve this objective. Crucially, many companies recognise the UK as part of the wider European market. In practice, this means some of the proposed divergences from the EU approach suggested by the current proposal will impose unnecessary administrative burdens and hinder product availability, particularly in the area of labelling and packaging requirements. Establishing full alignment with EU labelling and package leaflet requirements is vital to guarantee the competitiveness of the GB’s products, reduce the administrative burden and costs for animal health companies and ensure the availability of veterinary medicines across the entirety of the UK. Failure to do so could make GB an unviable market and stop products which are readily available in the EU and Northern Ireland from entering GB for years, impacting animal health and wellbeing, and potentially crippling the GB animal health sector.

Access to Veterinary Medicines

A key consideration in the VMR revision should be striking the right balance between control and accessibility of veterinary medicines to give farmers and pet owners appropriate options for advice and supply – as exists at present. NOAH urges regulators to retain the current classification and distribution system and the ability to make case-by-case decisions on product classification and decide when products need to be available only via veterinary prescription. The inclusion of a proposal to classify all future immunological products, such as vaccines, as prescription-only medicines available exclusively from vets, is unwarranted. Instead, continuing to permit other professionals, such as Suitably Qualified Persons (SQPs) and pharmacists, to provide products assessed by the regulators as appropriate. This would protect and enhance the accessibility of animal medicines for all consumers, improve animal health and welfare and productivity on farms.

Promoting innovation and responsible use

The VMR proposals are an opportunity to encourage UK life sciences innovation. We are calling for the finalised VMRs to be futureproofed to reflect and encourage technological developments and advances in the development of new veterinary medicines and products. 

Education on new and existing veterinary medicines helps deliver responsible use. The current UK systems of advertising, including the ability of companies to carry out disease awareness educational campaigns should continue, while the proposal to only permit advertising of animal medicines to professional keepers of animals (such as farmers) should be scrapped, because it would negatively affect the awareness of disease prevention and treatment among animal owners, impacting on welfare.

Antimicrobial resistance

Finally, NOAH strongly welcomes and supports the proposals relating to antimicrobial resistance in the draft legislation. In particular, we think that it properly recognises the commitment of the livestock and veterinary sector, for example through the work of the RUMA Alliance (Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture) and indeed, through the development of NOAH’s own Livestock Vaccination Guideline and AMBP (Animal Medicines Best Practice) training, which have helped achieve a 55% reduction in antibiotic use in food producing animals since 2014.

Overall, NOAH welcomes much in the revised VMR proposals, however, it is vital these changes are made to safeguard the animal health sector and ensure the regulations uphold the availability, safety, efficacy, quality, and production of veterinary medicines in GB.

Once these changes are made, this legislation must be prioritised this parliamentary term, to give certainty to the animal health sector. Failure to do so risks severely impacting our animal medicines market in the UK. A comprehensive and well-rounded framework will propel our animal health sector forward. NOAH welcomes the opportunity to engage in detailed discussions regarding our response to the consultation, to achieve the right conditions for a thriving animal health sector which benefits animal and human health and contributes to British scientific excellence and skilled employment.

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