Tuesday, 18 October 2005
Draft Animal Remedies Regulations 2005: Motion.
Simon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
I welcome this motion and the fact that the Minister has made it back from Brussels to participate. I hope she had a successful day and that she made strong statements on what the Commissioner for trade, Mr. Peter Mandelson, has stated in particular. He has taken on a role to which he has no entitlement. We should not allow the French alone to do the dirty work. I hope the Irish Government makes strong statements.
This motion is extremely focused and I do not understand why the Government has not accepted it but come forward with an amendment. For the non-farming sector, issues surrounding the purchase, supply and usage of veterinary medicines may seem like a trivial matter. For the thousands of farmers throughout Ireland who keep livestock, this is an issue of major concern.
Ireland is required to legislate for Directive 2004/28/EC by the end of this month. The directive began life dealing with issues surrounding the supply and sale of medicines for human use and the rules surrounding prescription and supply. It was then extended to the area of animal medicine. In reality, the system as it stands in Ireland is not bad. For the more serious medicines used on farms a vet is required to give an analysis and then a prescription. Farmers can buy many of the lesser medicines and medical treatments off the shelf with advice from someone in the co-op or the pharmacy, as long as the medicine is approved.
My understanding of what has been proposed by the Government is that it is intended to implement the directive in a manner which in principle would require all veterinary medicines to have a prescription. We would then seek a derogation of the rules for certain commonly used medicines so farmers will not have to call out a vet to receive a prescription each time they want a drug. This approach is both flawed and dangerous. The Government assumes we will get a derogation for the list of commonly used veterinary medicines to allow their sale without prescription. We can put forward a list but the decision will be made by an expert group of people in a standing committee linked to the Commission. The Irish Government does not make that decision. We are gambling on the fact that this supposed derogation list will be successful. Each EU country has a different system for prescribing veterinary medicines. As it happens, the Irish system is stricter than that of many other European countries. Introducing a system of prescription only veterinary medicine is more difficult and restrictive for Irish farmers than in many other European countries.
The UK has recognised this problem and come up with a solution that may be applicable to Ireland. A more sensible approach should be taken by Government, as the UK has done. We should reclassify medicines into different categories of drugs so that they can be prescribed by registered persons qualified and authorised to do so by the Irish authorities. This approach is accepted by the EU.
To achieve the overarching goal of safeguarding animal health and welfare through giving farmers timely, cost-effective and equitable access to medicines and animal health advice, the draft regulations must be amended to shift the emphasis from an excessive reliance on securing a list of exempt products at EU level. This is what the UK has done and if we change our tactics it could result in an all-Ireland approach towards the issue. The emphasis should be to reclassify or re-categorise medicines with a corollary and appropriate training or registration for the relevant professionally qualified person, as the Government decides, whether it be a pharmacist, merchant or in some cases, a vet. This is about taking a sensible approach, because there are significant implications for farmers across the country.