Farmers face higher costs and more red tape as the industry remains divided on how best to deal with new EU rules on the sale and supply of wormers, pour-ons, and doses.
From January 2022, all antiparasitic drugs will only be available on foot of a veterinary prescription, similar to antibiotics.
While all current suppliers will still be allowed sell the products, farmers will require a prescription from a vet to purchase them.
The plans have been met with stiff opposition from licensed merchants, co-ops and farm organisations, who fear it will leave rural businesses unviable and raise costs for farmers. The Department of Agriculture is awaiting the view of the Attorney General’s office on a legal opinion put forward by the Independent Licensed Merchants Association (ILMA), which believes Ireland can allow officially trained suitably qualified people (SQPs) other than vets prescribe certain medicines.
In the meantime, the Department has begun exploring a range of other possibilities.
One of the its proposals is to break the link between the prescribing and dispensing of medicines, similar to human health rules.
This would see vets prescribe but not sell veterinary medicines and is an approach taken in some other EU countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Italy.
The Department also has plans for an electronic prescribing system whereby farmers would get a prescription sent to them from their vet by text message.
The length of time a prescription could remain valid is being also examined as part of an annual herd health plan.
The Irish Co-operative Organisation Society (ICOS), which represents dairy co-ops, has put forward a proposal to allow a company or co-op vet prescribe medicines.
The Veterinary Council of Ireland (VCI), the body which regulates vets, has been designated the responsibility to assess such proposals.
ICOS says the VCI has rejected the concept and believes it is not acting objectively by favouring vets.