Filling a prescription for livestock – what does this mean for pharmacists?

November 28, 2018

Starting this Saturday, pharmacists could be filling more prescriptions for livestock.

As of December 1, 2018, farmers will need a prescription for veterinary antibiotics for their livestock. Producers will no longer be able to buy these drugs directly from co-operatives, feed mills, livestock medicine outlets, or other places where over-the-counter animal medications are sold.

This change means there will be increased veterinary oversight of all medically important antibiotics (MIA). Health Canada considers these drugs to be essential for the treatment of bacterial infections in humans as classified by Health Canada.

In order to get a prescription, producers must work with a veterinarian. An established vet-client-patient relationship (VCPR) must be present before a producer can receive a prescription for an MIA. The producer has the choice of having the prescription filled by the veterinarian or taking it to a pharmacist.

This is the latest step in changes to regulations that were announced in May 2017 to improve oversight and the responsible use of antimicrobials in animals. The changes also align Canada with international best practices and protect human and animal health and food safety. The concern is that antibiotic overuse in animals is leading to antimicrobial resistance, which can lead to diseases or "super bugs" that are hard to treat in humans. 

Accessibility is an issue for producers who may not work with a veterinarian or have one nearby. This means a pharmacist could be presented with a prescription for a herd.

ACP’s position is that pharmacists must have the knowledge and skills required to provide appropriate care when dispensing medication for animals. Further, ACP has determined that prescribing or adapting a prescription for an animal is not within a pharmacist’s legislated scope of practice.

Health Canada says veterinarians and pharmacists can sell a prescription drug (including a DIN drug premix and medicated feed) to animal owners. However, these end users must have a prescription. Veterinarians and pharmacists cannot sell a prescription drug to a retail store.

For more information, visit Health Canada’s webpage: Responsible use of medically important antimicrobials in animals.


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