Purchase of veterinary medicines online and accessing

Unauthorised Veterinary Medicines

Every veterinary medicine supplied in Ireland must be authorised for use in this country. Stringent legislation exists governing:

  • The purchase of veterinary medicines on-line by the general public,
  • The importation and use of veterinary medicines from abroad by veterinary practitioners,
  • The use of human medicines for the treatment of animals by veterinary practitioners for conditions where no suitable authorised veterinary medicine exists.

The purchase, supply, use and importation of veterinary medicines is regulated by the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (DAFM) rather than the HPRA. Under European and Irish legislation, all veterinary medicines (animal remedies) must be authorised (licensed) before being marketed in Ireland. Indeed, under national legislation (Animal Remedies Act), it is illegal for a person to have in his possession or to supply a veterinary medicine that is not authorised here. DAFM has provided useful information on the purchase of veterinary medicines over the internet, which is available on the DAFM website.

Veterinary medicines that are authorised for supply and use in the UK or in an EU Member State might not be authorised for use in Ireland, and the labelling and packaging of such products might not comply with Irish requirements. Such products are deemed by DAFM as not being in compliance nationally and may be seized by Customs officials on importation into the country. Experience has shown that veterinary medicines ordered on-line and supplied from abroad using unlicensed websites might be counterfeit, out-of-date/short dated, or may have been compromised during storage (e.g. not stored or transported under the specified storage conditions). Such products may not be effective at best and could cause injury to you or the animal concerned.

Veterinary practitioners should note that stringent rules apply to the importation of veterinary medicines from abroad. Where necessary, veterinary practitioners may apply to DAFM for a special licence to import a veterinary medicine under the ‘cascade’ provisions of the legislation (a system for exceptional use where no authorised veterinary medicine is available in Ireland). Veterinary practitioners are also entitled to use certain types of human medicines exceptionally, where justified, under the terms of Article 112-116 of Regulation 2019/6 (the cascade principles).

Veterinary practitioners should also note that the supply of certain human medicines from a wholesaler is covered by the Medicinal Products (Control of Wholesale Distribution) Regulations, 2007 (S.I. No. 538 of 2007) as subsequently amended. These regulations define the sale by wholesaler as meaning the sale or supply for the purposes of sale in the course of a business or for the administration to patients in the course of a professional practice. The HPRA interprets professional practice as including professional practice by a registered veterinary practitioner; it is understood that veterinary practitioners have an ethical, professional obligation to relieve and prevent animal suffering. Note that only those human medicines that have been authorised either:

  • Centrally, following the opinion of the European Medicines Agency (EMA),
  • Nationally, by the HPRA or by another EU Member State 

are eligible for supply to veterinary practitioners (and not other categories of medicinal products, such as those authorised in the UK or supplied as exempt medicinal products in Ireland. 

The HPRA further understands that veterinary practitioners ordering human medicines from a human medicines wholesaler should not write a prescription (which should only be filled by a pharmacy currently) but that the records should be kept e.g. in the veterinary practitioner’s order book. It is suggested that veterinary practitioners making such orders could confirm in his/her order that the medicines sought were for use in animals under their care in accordance with the cascade and that the use was in accordance with his/her professional practice.

The HPRA continues to work to improve the range of authorised veterinary medicine in Ireland through a range of national and international initiatives.