Tuesday, 18 October 2005
Draft Animal Remedies Regulations 2005: Motion.
Mary Coughlan (Minister, Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs; Minister, Department of Agriculture and Food; Donegal South West, Fianna Fail)
The suggestion that the draft regulations will facilitate the creation of a monopoly in the sale of veterinary medicines is equally groundless. Intramammaries are the only current products which will become prescription medicines as a result of the draft regulations. I am also introducing other countervailing changes in the existing regulations to encourage a more transparent and competitive market in veterinary medicines.
There is nothing in the draft regulation which will hinder good farming practice or have a negative effect on animal welfare. Pending the adoption of the exemption criteria at EU level, farmers will continue to be able to access veterinary medicines, with the exception of intramammaries, on the same basis as at present.
On the availability of veterinary practitioners in certain parts of the country, veterinary practices are primarily commercial entities and their location is driven by commercial realities. In so far as Government involvement is concerned, I draw attention to measures in the new Veterinary Practice Act which should help to address any shortages in Irish trained veterinary practitioners. For the first time, the Veterinary Council is being enabled to recognise qualifications from applicants in third countries generally. This, taken with the recent enlargement of the EU, should make for the improved availability of practitioners from outside the State to meet any shortfalls in the supply side. In addition, Údarás na Gaeltachta is providing funding to subsidise veterinary practices in remote areas.
Much has been said about the impact of the draft regulations on the possible development of a cross-Border black market in veterinary medicines. It has been suggested, for that reason, that we should adopt the same approach as the United Kingdom to the implementation of the directive. I remind those who make this suggestion that in the United Kingdom prescriptions for intramammaries may be written only by veterinarians and may only be supplied by veterinarians and pharmacies. Is that the view being proposed? The system which I am proposing for intramammaries is more flexible, particularly in that licensed merchants will continue to be permitted to supply these medicines.
With regard to the suggestion that qualified professionals, other than veterinary practitioners, should be permitted to write prescriptions, I will consider that suggestion next year in light of the EU decision on the criteria for exempting certain products from the prescription requirement. The simple fact of the matter is that there is no need to take a decision to extend the range of prescribers until we know what additional medicines will become subject to prescriptions.