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‘add to basket’ online vet meds not acceptable say VMD

THE ONLINE 'add to basket' system of purchasing veterinary medicines online - with no interaction between supplier and customer - is unacceptable. This was the message given to delegates attending the 23rd Animal Health Distributors Association (AHDA) Annual Conference in Warwickshire.

John Fitzgerald, Operations Director at the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, (VMD) told the conference that his organisation had received many complaints about inadequate controls over the distribution of veterinary medicines over the Internet. He said there should be no difference in the standards by which veterinary medicines are sold, whether over the Internet or over the counter and he called on websites to comply with Veterinary Medicines Regulations.

The VMD plans to issue new Guidance Notes aimed specifically at Internet retailers of veterinary medicines clarifying what is required of them. Currently there is little official advice aimed just at them, although VMD Marketing Regulations do state the following:

If customer testimonials are used in connection with the marketing of a product and which report results containing medicinal claims, the claims will be taken to be those of that company marketing the product.

Websites are considered in the same way as any other form of advertising and must not make medicinal claims for products that do not hold marketing authorisations. Should a website incorporate a chat room or forum this must abide by the same rules as any other part of the website.

UK based websites advertising non UK authorised veterinary medicinal products, intended for sale and administration outside the UK, must clearly indicate that the products will not be sold to UK customers. Overseas-based websites are generally considered to be outside of our control unless they are found to be targeting the UK market, for example by pricing in sterling or quoting UK delivery charges.

The new Guidance Notes are expected to be made available in the next few months. They will offer examples of good practice for operating over the Internet, such as having an on-line customer registration system, direct telephone or email contact and providing details of the Suitably Qualified Person, (SQP) responsible for prescription and supply.

The VMD plans to carry out checks, including test purchasing and in cases of non-compliance, has the power to seize stock without compensation and report offenders to their professional body.
Reputable companies selling over the Internet says the VMD, could gain a commercial advantage by highlighting the skills of their SQPs to reassure customers, ‘because most websites have no information of this nature and could be run by anyone,’ Mr Fitzgerald added.

OUR DOGS Belgian Shepherd breed correspondent Marianne Brett commented: ‘I see where the VMD are coming from, but quite frankly, a lot of pet owners - including myself – use online ordering for basic veterinary medicines because they cost a lot less than from the vets.”