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NOAH welcomes support for cascade

THE NATIONAL Office of Animal Health has welcomed the Government’s formal response to the Independent Review of Dispensing by Veterinary Surgeons (the Marsh Report).

In particular, it is pleased that the Government has rejected the proposal that would have allowed veterinaries to prescribe human medicines for companion animals in place of a properly authorised animal one. The Government believed that “the increased risk to target animal safety and the added disincentive to the development of new animal medicines outweighs the possibly reduced costs”.

Building on the many positive points of the Interim Government Response made in December 2001, the formal response continues to suggest positive and practical recommendation to improve how animal medicines are made available to animal owners. Although to some extent overshadowed by the ongoing European Veterinary Regulatory Review and the Competition Commission (due to report this month) which affect five of Marsh’s original conclusions, the Government has agreed with 8 points made by Marsh and rejected the suggestion to scrap the cascade for companion animals.

Philip Sketchley, NOAH chief executive said: “We are particularly pleased with the support given by the Government to the authorisation system for animal medicines. Cats and dogs have just as much right to properly researched and specifically formulated animal medicines as food producing animals. The regulatory system is there to protect animals, and it would have been unfair to the nation’s pets to abdicate that responsibility and say that using unauthorised products (which is what human generics are in a veterinary context) would have been as good - it is not”.

However, it is very important to differentiate between veterinary generics (which are perfectly legitimate, and already come at the “ top” of the cascade where the vet chooses the most appropriate authorised veterinary product from those available) and human generics; the latter are often, confusingly, simply referred to as “generics” - indeed they are in Recommendation 8.

“Human products may have the same active at the same concentration - though this is often not the case with tablets, leading to risks of incorrect dosing - but the excipients used may not be suitable for all animal species.

“Most members of the public would be reluctant to use animal medicines on themselves, and we should continue to offer the same safeguards to our animals,” said Mr Sketchley.

In addition, freedom to use human medicines would present a barrier to companies developing new animal medicines. “There is little incentive for a company to conduct research into new animal medicines if it knows that human generics could be used with impunity as soon as its licence had been granted and used under the dosage recommendations established by a veterinary manufacturer. We are pleased that the Government has rejected this proposal and have made the same points to the Competition Commission,” said Mr Sketchley.