The National Office of Animal Health (NOAH) welcomes the decision by DEFRA not to proceed with the proposal contained in the draft Veterinary Medicines Regulations 2010 to prohibit the advertising of antimicrobials to farmers.
Like the majority who commented during the consultation, NOAH believed this proposal would have a negative effect on farmers' ability to maintain their knowledge and awareness of animal health and welfare issues, and did not believe that it would reduce antimicrobial resistance profiles.
NOAH chief executive Phil Sketchley said: "Farmers, as professional producers of food, need to be kept well briefed on the antimicrobials they use, following prescription by their veterinary surgeons. Promotion by our members plays a key role in this and in educating farmers about animal welfare and disease".
NOAH members follow rigid rules on advertising and promotion through the longstanding Code of Practice for the Promotion of Animal Medicines.
Phil Sketchley explained: "The NOAH Code already goes beyond the Veterinary Medicines Regulations and is reviewed each year - this year we will be particularly looking to ensure that it fully reflects the industry's commitment to disease education and information on responsible use, particularly in relation to antimicrobial promotion. We have planned, at our Code review meeting in February, further discussions within NOAH and with the VMD to finalise how this can best be achieved."
Mr Sketchley added: "We need a holistic approach to all medicine use, meaning responsible promotion, responsible prescribing and responsible use of all medicines including antimicrobials.
"Importantly we must always remember that antimicrobial medicines for all animals are POM-V, meaning they have to be prescribed by a veterinary surgeon, and therefore it should be the vet who makes the decision on whether an antibiotic is needed. If such therapy is indicated, the most appropriate antibiotic for an animal or group of animals is selected by the veterinary surgeon based on the clinical signs shown, the current disease situation on the farm and in the area and where appropriate and feasible, is based on bacterial culture and sensitivity testing," he said.
Using promotion to encourage responsible use, NOAH launched its 'Use Medicines Responsibly' campaign in 2009. A recommendation was made that members include a strap line on promotional material advising users to 'use medicines responsibly'.
NOAH was a founder member of the Responsible Use of Medicines in Agriculture Alliance (RUMA) and continues to be a strong contributor to and supporter of RUMA's communications to farmers including the antimicrobial guidelines. These guidelines are not intended to influence the veterinary surgeon's decision to prescribe but help support ways that the veterinary surgeon and farmer can work together to reduce the need to prescribe antimicrobials whilst ensuring they are used responsibly once prescribed in line with the principle of 'as little as possible but as much as necessary'..
"Antibiotics are essential for the health and welfare of the UK's livestock population. NOAH accepts that antimicrobial resistance is a serious and growing subject of discussion for the medical and veterinary professions and we need to continue to take this matter seriously," added Mr Sketchley.
Notes to Editors
The National Office of Animal Health represents the UK animal medicines industry: its aim is to promote the benefits of safe, effective, quality medicines for the health and welfare of all animals.
For further information contact Phil Sketchley or Alison Glennon at NOAH on 020 8367 3131, or by email email@example.com or look at the NOAH website www.noah.co.uk.
1. The summary of responses to the VMD's consultation on the Veterinary Medicines Regulations is found at www.vmd.gov.uk
2. NOAH's 'Use Medicines Responsibly' webpage is found at www.noah.co.uk
3.A unique initiative involving organisations representing every stage of the "farm to fork" process, RUMA aims to promote a co-ordinated and integrated approach to best practice in the use of medicines. More information is at www.ruma.org.uk
4. More information on NOAH's Code of Practice for the Promotion of Animal Medicines is at www.noah.co.uk
COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER, NOAH
3 Crossfield Chambers