By Rob Morris, FRPhamS, Chair of the RPS Veterinary Pharmacy Forum
In case you didn’t know, pharmacists are in a very privileged position when it comes to the supply of veterinary medicines in the UK. Unlike human medicines, the animal equivalents are regulated and licensed by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) – an executive agency sponsored by DEFRA.
Whilst the vast majority of vet medicines are handled by veterinary surgeons, animal health merchants and pet stores, the VMD still regards pharmacists a key supplier to both the farm and pet-owning public. Animal health merchant and pet store owners must ensure they have appropriately trained staff, or Suitably Qualified Persons (SQPs) and also operate from licensed premises which the VMD duly inspect and regulate – rather like our GPhC. The VMD are satisfied that pharmacists already have the appropriate professional knowledge, training and regulation so they do not interfere.
In fact, pharmacists are mentioned specifically in two of the four legal categories of veterinary medicines which are:
- NFA-VPS (Non-Food Animal – Vet, Pharmacist and SQP and
- POM-VPS (Prescription-only Medicine – Vet, Pharmacist, SQP)
Both of the above medicine categories can be advised and supplied by a pharmacist with no further training.
Most pharmacies are already stocking certain flea and worm treatments for cats and dogs that are NFA-VPS category. These medicines have to be kept away from self-selection and advised/prescribed appropriately at the pharmacy counter. Half of UK households have either a cat or dog and they need regular NFA-VPS treatments to keep them healthy and parasite-free. The overall market for this category of medicines is valued at £tens of millions with only a small share for pharmacy. The bulk is supplied via veterinary practices, pet stores and online dispensaries. Supermarkets supply mostly AVM-GSL pet medicines and of course offer no advise at point-of-sale unless they have an in-store pharmacy.
My message is very simple:
- Familiarise yourself with the various NFA-VPS (and GSL) medicines available to treat fleas and worms in pets.
- Ensure all of your staff are aware of the prescribing duties required when supplying the products to the customer.
- Promote (tell everyone!) veterinary medicines are available in the pharmacy as part of your offering to customers, whether it is in-store or online
- Consider contacting local veterinary practices to offer a dispensing service for human medicines they may need to prescribe for animals (so called “Cascade” dispensing – see VMD website)
It is really important that pharmacists use this opportunity to advise and supply their communities with vet medicines. These medicines are needed all year-round by every other customer coming in to the pharmacy! The number of products available for prescribing by pharmacists is set to grow as they are being re-classified from POM-V to NFA-VPS. But if we do not provide this service, the VMD might exclude pharmacists in future legislation. Unlikely, maybe, but the sooner you get invoved in this important OTC category the better.
Join the Veterinary Pharmacy Association (VPA) dedicated to further post-graduate training and education of pharmacists and their staff – see www.vpa.education