Veterinary medicine is an important category in most community pharmacies, largely comprising flea and worm preparations for cats and dogs. Fipronil (Frontline, for instance) is the active ingredient contained in the most popular flea treatment and the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD), which licenses and regulates all veterinary medicines, has categorised it as an NFA-VPS product. This means it can be prescribed and supplied by vets, pharmacists and suitably qualified persons (SQPs) who work mainly in the large UK pet stores. SQPs have to undertake a period of training and pass an examination to be able to prescribe such pet medicines.
There are duties and responsibilities that go with being able to supply NFA-VPS medicines, as there are with pharmacy medicines for humans. A pharmacist supplying veterinary medicines must authorise each transaction individually before the product is supplied and, if not personally handing the product over, must be satisfied that the person who is handing it over is competent to do so.
When pharmacists supply a product classified as NFA-VPS, they must: satisfy themselves that the person who will use the product is competent to do so safely; satisfy themselves that the person intends to use that product in accordance with its authorisation; advise the customer on how to administer the product safely; and advise the customer on any warnings or contraindications.
They must also only prescribe (or, in the case of an NFA-VPS product, supply) the minimum amount required for the treatment of the animal.
The VMD inspectorate monitor veterinary practices and pet stores but also receive reports of pharmacy activity in this market. They have been made aware that supervision of vet medicine prescribing in some pharmacies is inadequate and the above duties and responsibilities are not being carried out. I strongly advise pharmacists to ensure they have a suitable protocols in place for the supply of veterinary medicines.
Pharmacists are deemed suitable professionals to supply and dispense vet medicines because of their expertise in medicines per se. However pharmacists have no automatic right to do this and it can be withdrawn by the VMD if it feels the regulations are being ignored. It is not sufficient to merely keep NFA-VPS products behind the counter like other pharmacy medicines. Correct advice and questioning to ensure the right product is prescribed to the pet-owning public is paramount. For further clarity on this issue refer to www.gov.uk/guidance/retail-of-veterinary-medicines.
Chair, Royal Pharmaceutical Society Veterinary Pharmacy Forum