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Farmers are being hit with “more unneeded bureaucracy” with calls for a derogation allowing veterinary medicines to be sold without prescription for use on food-producing animals set to cease.

All veterinary medicines have required prescriptions in the European Union since the early 2000s. However, Ireland had been availing of a derogation under this regulation that allowed veterinary medicines to be sold without prescription for use on food-producing animals, if the use of that medicine did not present a risk to human health.

Publication of a report by the Health Products Regulatory Authority in 2019 which found that, due to increasing levels of resistance to anti-parasitic medicine in food-producing animals, Ireland no longer meets the criteria to avail of the derogation. Subsequently, the derogation is set to expire next January, at which point a range of veterinary medicines that currently don’t require prescriptions will require them.

An extension of the derogation was sought by Cllr Pat Burke (FG) who tabled a motion asking the Minister for Agriculture Charlie McConalogue (FF) “to avail of the provision of a derogation which would allow for qualified persons other than veterinary practitioners to issue a prescription for routine veterinary medicines”.

Speaking at the February meeting of Clare County Council, Cllr Burke cautioned that if the directive comes into force, the cost of each prescription will be decided by the Veterinary Council of Ireland. “Currently the cost ranges from €20 to 30 per transaction. Outlets that sell these doses and treatment currently sold ranges from 20 to 30% higher than licenced merchant outlets, this directive removes the commercial aspect. This does not need to happen”. The Whitegate representative flagged that a clause exists allowing “responsible persons to prescribe medicines” and felt it must be maintained.

Undue pressure will be put on farmers if the derogation is lifted, Cllr Ann Norton (IND) believed. “There is a lot of hardship amongst the farming community, bringing in more problems again costing the farmer money when it doesn’t need to be is very important.

Extra costs will be incurred by farmers, Cllr Joe Killeen (FF) stated. Medicines from Northern Ireland can be distributed and sourced from co-ops across the country, he added. The Corofin representative called for the Minister to meet with the Anti-Parasitic Resistance Stakeholders Group, “they want a pragmatic system and one that delivers value for money”.

Mayor of Ennis, Cllr Paul Murphy (FG) maintained it would brring about “more unneeded bureaucracy” for farmers. “If they need to call a vet, they will call a vet, farmers know what they are at”. “It is only more red tap on the top of the farming community,” Cllr Joe Cooney (FG) remarked as he backed the motion.

A view in the farming community is that the lifting of the derogation implies “farmers aren’t to be trusted with the pesticides and medicines,” Cllr Shane Talty (FF) commented. “No farmer is going around firing out costly medicine ad-lib to animals. Farmers are well able to make their own assessments,” he added.

“I can’t understand why they would want to change legislation when the farmer can’t even go to the Co-Op. The vet shouldn’t be called for everything,” Cllr Pat O’Gorman (FF) said. Further support was voiced by Cllr Pat Hayes (FF), Cllr PJ Ryan (IND), Cllr Michael Begley (IND), Cllr Donna McGettigan (SF) and Cllr Mary Howard (FG).

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