Vets want more restrictions on antibiotic access

Vets are urging restrictions on the use of antibiotics. Photo: Getty Images.
Vets are urging restrictions on the use of antibiotics. Photo: Getty Images.

Darragh McCullough and Aideen Sheehan.

Vets are lobbying hard for an end to the system that allows farmers to buy dry-cow tubes from their local co-ops.

In the same week that the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) called for a reduction in the use of antibiotics at farm level, the Veterinary Union has revealed that it wants a tightening up of regulations here to prevent antibiotics being prescribed by anybody other than a vet with "real rather than just nominal care of animals".

Speakers at a Department of Agriculture conference in Cork yesterday warned delegates that drug resistant bacteria were responsible for 25,000 human deaths annually in the EU alone.

Entitled Action Today to Ensure Effective Antibiotics for Tomorrow, the day-long event in Teagasc Moorepark was aimed at ramping up awareness across the agri-sector on the issue.

In a statement, the chairman of Veterinary Ireland's working group on anti-microbial resistance, Joe Collins, said that vets had been lobbying for some time to ensure that there was "always a clear bona fide vet-client relationship" in any situation where antibiotics were being prescribed.

In addition, Dr Collins said that the "diagnosis and treatment of animals, in particular those with infectious diseases" should never be farmer-led.

"Veterinary Ireland has proposed a tightening up of amendments to the Animal Remedies Regulations in 2007 which have permitted any prescribing of anti-microbials without a vet having hands-on personal knowledge of the animals.


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"Veterinary Ireland wishes to see an end to any tolerance in legislation for the long-distance prescribing of anti-microbials including intra-mammary mastitis treatments to animals.

"We also wish to see better targeted, intelligence-led enforcement to deal with any illegal supply, sourcing, sharing or unethical prescribing of anti-microbials," he said.

BEUC said that tests by consumer groups in nine countries between 2012 and 2014 had found that poultry meat was the most likely to be contaminated with resistant bacteria.

Tests in the Netherlands found 98pc of samples were contaminated with antibiotic-resistant ESBL bacteria, and 72-82pc of samples in Spain, Italy, Belgium and Portugal. In Germany 20pc of the tests were positive for the MRSA superbug, which is resistant to most antibiotics.

Minister Coveney, opening yesterday's conference, said that no individual sector, country or region could hope to address the issue in isolation.

He added that all antibiotics were subject to veterinary prescription control. However, only a handful of vets - through the network of the dairy co-ops - are responsible for prescribing millions of dry-cow tubes to the vast majority of Ireland's 18,000 farmers.

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