Farmers will be able to purchase licensed veterinary medicines, such as dosing products from merchants and co-op stores, under new compromise sales arrangements.

However, legislative changes introduced to facilitate the new sales regime have been roundly criticised by Veterinary Ireland.

After months of wrangling, new arrangements will allow merchants to sell medicines such as dosing products to farmers once a vet has issued a prescription. This will mean merchants working with private vets to issue what are termed ‘distance prescriptions’ for medicines. These prescriptions are likely to cost farmers €10 to €15 per script.

New legislation

The Irish Farmers Journal also understands that the new legislation will allow merchants and co-ops to sell some vaccines which were previously only available from vets.

But the regulatory changes around the prescribing of medicines have been condemned by Veterinary Ireland, which claimed that it will threaten the provision of 24-hour cover.

Conor Geraghty of Veterinary Ireland explained that under existing regulations vets could only prescribe medicines after a clinical examination of an animal or if they had a client-patient practice relationship with the farmer.

However, he said a recent amendment introduced under the Veterinary Medicinal Products, Medicated Feed and Fertilisers Regulation Bill 2023 will allow the distance prescribing of medicines by vets contracted to merchants and co-ops.

Two-tier system

Geraghty contended that the recent amendment will create a two-tier system where one group of vets will be required by the Veterinary Council to provide 24-hour cover to farmers, while another group will not.

He claimed this situation was “unenforceable legally” and would ultimately lead to the loss of 24-hour cover to farmers. But this view was rejected by the Independent Licensed Merchants Association (ILMA)and Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS).

Ollie Ryan from the ILMA and Ray Doyle from ICOS stated: “Farmers have excellent relationships with veterinary practitioners, co-ops and private merchants and they can now freely decide who to purchase from.”