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Veterinary surgeons again permitted to charge for prescriptions

Veterinary surgeons are once again allowed to charge animal owners for writing prescriptions, after a three-year ban on such fees came to an end on 31 October 2008.

Since 31 October 2005, veterinary surgeons have been legally obliged to issue prescriptions free of charge, which has given community pharmacists an opportunity to dispense veterinary medicines. This legislation had a three-year sunset clause and lapsed earlier this month.

The Office of Fair Trading will monitor the reintroduction of prescription charges and has advised veterinary practices that they must charge a reasonable fee for issuing a prescription and must not charge different prices or fees to those who take a prescription and those who do not. In addition, vets may breach competition laws if they collude to set a price.

Andrew Cairns, chairman of the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s Veterinary Pharmacists Group, said: “Pharmacists should contact the Society’s head of practice if they believe that vets are abusing their position and putting dispensing pharmacists at a commercial disadvantage that renders them unable to compete.”

The OFT has asked the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons to monitor complaints that relate to prescription charges.

Jill Nute, RCVS president, said: “Our guide to professional conduct for veterinary surgeons advises vets only to make reasonable charges for prescriptions, which affords the public protection against excessive or inappropriate costs.”

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 10038092

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