British veterinarians welcome advertising ban on antimicrobials

Efforts made to curb antimicrobial resistance

October 16, 2012 (published)
By Jennifer Fiala

Photo by Jennifer Fiala
The British Veterinary Association favors outlawing advertisements of antimicrobial agents to the public in an effort to limit antimicrobial resistance.
It soon will be illegal for pharmaceutical companies to advertise antimicrobials in the United Kingdom, and the British Veterinary Association (BVA) supports the marketing ban.

The advertising moratorium — slated to take effect in 2013 — is intended to rein in farmers’ use of antimicrobials in livestock and, by extension, curb antimicrobial resistance.

BVA President Peter Jones explained in a news release that pharmaceutical companies heavily advertise new antimicrobials, putting “undue pressure on veterinary surgeons by clients who want to try new products …” regardless of whether their use is appropriate.

The move to ban antimicrobial advertisements was prompted by the European Commission’s assessment that the UK did not “correctly transpose the European directive, which prohibits the advertising of certain veterinary medical products to the general public.”

The European Commission is the executive branch of the European Union, responsible for proposing legislation across member states. In the UK, passing and implementing advertising restrictions falls to the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD).

The VMD, which regulates veterinary medicine in the UK, announced earlier this month that the agency planned to revise its Veterinary Medicines Regulations to incorporate the advertising ban.

In a letter to stakeholders, the VMD stated: “A number of interested parties from veterinary medicine hold the view that the advertising of antibiotics to keepers of animals leads to undue pressure to prescribe newer antibiotics, which can often be important in human medicine and are associated with the development of multiple resistances.”

Critics of the advertising ban include pharmaceutical industry officials who argue that there’s no scientific evidence to suggest a correlation between promoting antimicrobial agents and antimicrobial resistance. Some in agriculture say the same, with the Farmers’ Union of Wales (FUW) adding that its members should be treated as professionals and have access to the same marketing materials available to veterinarians.

"Given that farmers are entrusted with producing food that is safe to consume and is produced to high environmental and welfare standards, the Union believes it is imperative that they should be able to easily receive essential information which directly affects the health of the livestock under their care," FUW Deputy President Emyr Jones said in a news release.

Jones, the BVA’s president, refuted the notion that non-veterinarians must have access to advertising materials for antimicrobials.

“Antimicrobial resistance is a very serious issue for both animal and human health, and we are pleased that the European Commission and the VMD have taken the view that the regulations need to be revised,” he said. “Ultimately, it is the veterinary surgeon who will make the decision on which veterinary products to use, and vets will continue to work with their farm clients to ensure antimicrobials are used prudently and responsibly.”

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