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 Deputy does not like to hear the truth. At one extreme, if my Department is successful in securing criteria which permit us to retain most of the existing range of medicines offprescription, it may not be necessary to extend the range of prescribers. On the other hand, if a substantial number of products which are currently off-prescription become prescription medicines, I will have to take that situation into consideration in my decision on the issue.
It would be extremely foolish to provide at this stage for prescriptions to be written by non-veterinary practitioners because to do so would necessarily also oblige me to designate as prescription only some of the medicines which are now offprescription. It is simply not practical to provide for prescriptions for certain products to be written by non-veterinary practitioners without at the same time identifying those products which they would be permitted to prescribe. As I said earlier, my Department is seeking to secure exemption status for all existing off-prescription medicines, with the exception of intramammaries. It would undermine our negotiating position if I were to re-categorise unilaterally at this stage some off-prescription medicines as requiring prescriptions. My Department's approach of deferring a decision on whether it will be necessary to extend the range of prescribers until the exemption criteria issue is resolved is the best approach to take in these circumstances.
As far as the exemption criteria are concerned, the European Commission has indicated that it intends to submit its proposals to the standing veterinary committee early next year. We will press the Commission to honour this commitment because we recognise the need for an early resolution of this matter to enable us to take our decisions on the prescribing issue well in advance of 1 January 2007. My Department intends to engage actively with the various stakeholders prior to any decision being made.
With regard to compliance, Directive 2004/28 specifies the requirements with which farmers are required to comply in terms of record keeping. Specifically, records are required of purchases and use of medicines. The draft regulations simply give effect to these requirements. The new requirements on vets to issue written prescriptions in all cases will facilitate the farmer in keeping this record and the keeping of a computerised record, which is something that has been sought by farming organisations.
On the issue of advertising, the ban on advertising of prescription products to the public was inserted at the behest of the European Parliament. Therefore, let Deputies take their censorship and talk to the man who has just left the House. I share the views of the farming organisations and others that this is not a particularly sensible provision and that it is unwise to seek to reduce access by farmers to information on veterinary medicines, in particular new products. The Commission has already indicated in writing to my Department it considers that farmers fall within the term "general public".