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CONTRIBUTOR(S): Sophie Mahendran, Louise Cox-O'Shea,

Medicines: storing, handling, administering and disposing

Medicines: storing, handling, administering and disposing

These guidelines are directed at UK veterinarians and farmers.

Intravenous fluid therapy in a calf
©Mo Kemp


Aim to minimize your medicine use:

  • Prevention is always better than cure!
  • Best practice is to have herd health plans, nutritional protocols and monitoring systems in place, to reduce the need for medication.
  • This makes good economic sense!

Consult your veterinarian at the earliest opportunity, if individual disease or herd health problems are suspected. Early intervention will usually reduce medications required and improve the prognosis.

Only purchase medications from reputable sources, such as your veterinarian, pharmacy or SQP (Suitably Qualified Person).

Some drugs, such as POM-V medications (see below) can only be acquired from your veterinarian following examination of the affected animal(s).

It is an offence (in the UK) to use or possess medications not authorized, to you, by prescription. It is also an offence to sell medications/hand on medications unless you are authorized to do so.

What are the main classes of veterinary medicines?

The Royal College of Veterinary Surgeon’s (RCVS) Code of Professional conduct for Veterinary Surgeons sets out the guidelines for the classification of prescribing of veterinary medicines

There are 4 main classes of veterinary medicines:

  • POM-V: Prescription Only Medicine – Veterinarian.
  • POM- VPS: Prescription Only Medicine – Veterinarian, Pharmacist, Suitably Qualified Person.
  • NFA- VPS: Non-food animal – Veterinarian, Pharmacist, Suitably Qualified Person.
  • AVM- GSL: Authorised Veterinary Medicine – General Sales List.

A veterinary surgeon can only prescribe medications to animals ‘under their care’. The farm must be registered with the practice. In the case of a POM-V the animal must have been examined by the veterinarian before medication is prescribed.

There are 5 categories for ‘controlled drugs’ under the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001:

  • Schedule 1 – requires a Home Office Licence.
  • Schedule 2 – drugs must be recorded, for both acquiring and supplying. Prescriptions additional requirements necessary.
  • Schedule 3 – under prescription and additional requirements necessary. But do not need to be recorded in a controlled drugs register.
  • Schedule 4 – exempt from ‘controlled drugs’ protocol. Keep involved for 2 years.
  • Schedule 5 – exempt from ‘controlled drugs’ protocol. Keep involved for 2 years.

How must veterinary medicines be stored?

Different drugs have different storage requirements. It is important to check the manufacturers storage recommendations.

Some drugs will lose effectiveness if not stored within a certain temperature range. In particular, vaccines will lose efficacy if stored outside the recommended temperature range. Other drugs may become harmful to the animal if not stored at the correct temperature.

Fridge products should be stored within the fridge, not in the door. The fridge should be checked frequently and kept at a temperature between 2 and 8°C/35.6-46.4°F.

Some medicines are sensitive to light. Such medications should not be exposed to direct sunlight.

Medicated feeds should be stored in separate containers to normal feeds.

Containers should be labelled with contents information and expiry date.

All medicines should be kept out of the reach of children and personnel not authorized to handle them.

All medicines should be kept away from animals.

Medicines should be stored securely and ideally, locked away.

Medicines should be kept in their original containers for easy access to content details, expiry dates and manufacturer’s guidelines.

How must veterinary medicines be recorded?

The Veterinary Medicines Regulations 2013 produced by UK Government state:

A veterinary surgeon administering a veterinary medicinal product to food-producing animals under the cascade, or permitting another person to administer it under that veterinary surgeon’s responsibility, must, as soon as is reasonably practicable, record—

  • (a) The date of examination of the animals.
  • (b)The name and address of the owner.
  • (c)The identification and number of animals treated.
  • (d) The result of the veterinary surgeon’s clinical assessment.
  • (e) The trade name of the product if there is one.
  • (f)The manufacturer’s batch number shown on the product if there is one.
  • (g)The name and quantity of the active substances.
  • (h)The doses administered or supplied.
  • (i)The duration of treatment.
  • (j)The withdrawal period.
  • and must keep the record for at least five years”.

It is a legal requirement, in the UK, that all veterinary medicines records must be kept for a minimum of 5 years.

It may also be prudent to record who administered medication, expiry date of medication, end of withdrawal period and end of treatment course.

Medicine record books can be bought from various sources, such as NOAH (National Office of Animal Health) and AHDA (Animal Health Distributors Association).

Records must be easily available to be produced upon request. Official inspectors from the LA/ DEFRA may request to see records. Your veterinarian may also request to see medicine records.

Veterinary Medicine recording can be done electronically.

How must veterinary medicines be handled and administered?

When handling and administering veterinary medicines, operator safety must be of paramount importance. A list of emergency contacts should be located in an easily accessible, reliable place and always kept at the same location known to all staff. Contacts numbers should include local doctors surgery, hospital, etc. Personnel administering medications should first read the recommended operator safety guidelines and adhere to the advice.

Only competent personnel should be entrusted with the handling and administration of medication.

Before administering any medication it must first be established that medication is definitely required. Your Veterinary surgeon should be consulted and they will advise you. Before administering any medication, the manufacturer’s instructions should be read carefully and understood fully, and the expiry date of the product should be cheked to ensure it is still in date.If applicable, record when the medication was opened/first used; some medications must be disposed of within a certain period of time from the date of opening.Only administer drugs according to the recommended route and dosage.

Always ensure the correct dose is administered and the full treatment course is completed.

It is illegal to medicate animals with POM-V medications that have not been prescribed for that individual. This is only permissible if done under a veterinary surgeons direction.

Ensure withdrawal periods are observed and complied with.

It is an offence to sell milk/meat for human consumption if the withdrawal period has not been adhered to.

How must veterinary medicines be disposed?

It is illegal to sell or pass on unused or unwanted veterinary medicines unless authorized to do so.

Always dispose of used, unused, unwanted and out of date medications. Veterinary medicines should be disposed of safely and according to manufacturures instructions. Never put medications down the drain or in domestic waste unless it is explicitly advised that this is permitted.

Any POM-V medication should be disposed of as soon as the treatment course is completed.

Medicine containers should be disposed of according to the manufacturers instructions. Any equipment used to administer medication should be disposed of according to guidelines, eg needles should safely be disposed of in a sharps container (your veterinary surgeon will be able to provide such a container if required – when full this should be returned to your veterinarian for correct disposal).

If you are unsure about disposal procedure for a medication, contact your veterinary surgeon for advice.
When a medication is to be disposed of, record the medicine, date, amount and method of disposal.

How should side effects be reported?

Adverse effects should be reported to your vet or to the Suspected Adverse Reaction Surveillance Scheme at the VMD.

Adverse reactions include:

  • Animals reactions due to medication.
  • Human reactions from contact with veterinary medication.
  • Human reactions due to contact with animals receiving medication.

What about antibiotic resistance and responsible drug use?

Antibiotic resistance is becoming an increasing problem for both animals and humans. To reduce the development of resistance, it is important to only medicate when really necessary.

Antibiotics are not indicated for anything except bacterial infections and should not be administered to animals suffering for viral, fungal etc conditions unless recommended by your veterinarian. Your veterinarian will advise on the best antibiotic for the condition observed. Only the advised/prescribed medication should be given. The full recommended dose should be administered. Never underdose, as this encourages bacterial resistance. Antibiotic treatment courses should always be completed.

Never give an animal medication intended for another individual.

Your veterinarian may need to carry out tests at the start of treatment to ensure the correct antibiotic is being administered. They may also need to carry out tests at the end of the treatment course to ensure the condition is resolved.

Overuse and unnecessary use of antibiotics can make them less effective/ineffective for future infections.

What about anthelmintic resistance and responsible drug use?

Anthelmintic resistance is becoming an increasingly common problem seen in the veterinary world. It is important to adopt the correct worming regime to reduce future resistance. Too frequent dosing, overdosing and dosing with the same anthelmintic for a prolonged period of time should be avoided.

Avoid underdosing.

Effectiveness of anthelmintic treatment should be monitored. eg fecal egg count reduction test. Suspected cases of anthelmintic resistance should be assessed, eg with the fecal egg count reduction test.

Anthelmintic resistance should be reported to the VMD (Veterinary Medicines Directorate) to assist their surveillance.

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