A 17.6% hike in sales of veterinary antibiotics last year has been blamed on stockpiling of veterinary medicines before the UK departed the EU customs area on 31 December 2020.

The Health Products Regulatory Authority (HPRA) noted that the increase went against the trend for declining veterinary antibiotic use observed in Ireland since 2016.

“A contributory factor might be uncertainty around Brexit and the potential implications for availability of veterinary medicines, which is expected to have led to increased stocks being traded before 31 December 2020,” the HPRA said.

However, it also noted that the larger national herd could also have been a factor.

During 2020, there was an increase in sales of third and fourth generation cephalosporins, categorised as highest priority critically important antibiotics.

Meanwhile, sales of antibiotics for use in food-producing animals in Europe fell by more than 43% between 2011 and 2020, according to the latest European Surveillance of Veterinary Antimicrobial Consumption (ESVAC) report.

Sales in Ireland fell by 8.5% during the same period. The ESVAC report findings, published on Tuesday, analyses 31 countries.