THE OFF LICENCE USE OF HUMAN DRUGS IN VETERINARY MEDICINE
Obtaining a UK Marketing Authorisation in order to sell a drug for veterinary use costs millions of pounds for the manufacturer concerned. The possession of such a licence means that the drug concerned has been extensively tested, so that the practising profession can be confident as to its quality, safety and efficacy. However, the financial value of the veterinary pharmaceutical market is tiny, especially when compared with the human drug market. The inevitable consequence is that only those drugs that are anticipated to have considerable commercial sales value are ever put though the veterinary licensing process.
As a result, many drugs with no commercial attraction but with essential therapeutic properties are never licensed for veterinary use, leaving the veterinary surgeon to rely on the human equivalent medicine in order to treat patients effectively. Many of these drugs have been in regular use by the profession for thirty years or more, but it has recently been acknowledged that owners should be asked to give their informed consent for the use of such drugs.
Please note that veterinary practices legally have to prescribe licensed veterinary medications if they are available.
Some examples of unlicensed products that are commonly used in this practice on a regular basis are:
- Antepsin-for the prevention or reduction of gastric irritation
- Diazepam-a sedative, critically of use in epilepsy, or slug bait poisoning
- Emergency and life saving drugs e.g. adrenalin, atropine, beta blockers
- Lactulose-a common easily available product to assist in treating constipation
- Metronidazole-an antimicrobial drug that is of particular use in combating septicaemia, and chronic enteritis
- Morphine-a powerful opiate analgesic that has been used in veterinary medicine for over a hundred years
- Piriton-an anti-histamine that is available for over the counter purchase for human use
- Sevoflurane-the general anaesthetic gas we use which is currently only licensed in the UK for use in dogs, although the manufacturer is presently in the process of obtaining a licence for cats. This product has been routinely used in many countries, and on a variety of different species, including cats, birds and small mammals, since 1995. We have chosen to use it for clinical reasons, including precise control of the depth of anaesthesia and minimal adverse effects on our patients' internal organs
- Tramadol-a synthetic opiate type pain killer