A report by the Trade and Industry’s Competition Commission, published on Monday (14 April), has revealed three key issues that operated against public interest leading to a lack of choice of supplier for animal owners.

It concludes that the prices of prescription-only veterinary medicines (POMs) were therefore higher than they should be.

Among the three key issues identified as problem areas were vets’ failure to inform animal owners that they can ask for prescriptions.

It also found that vets failed to inform clients of theprice of POMs prior to dispensing and priced POMs at a price that did not reflect their cost of supply and to subsidise, to a certain extent, their professional fees.

The second issue was the failure of eight manufacturers to enable pharmacies to obtain supplies of POMs on terms that would enable them to compete with veterinary surgeons.

The third issue arises from the failure of all the veterinary wholesalers operating in the UK to take reasonable steps to market to pharmacies and supply them with POMs, so that they can compete with veterinary surgeons.

In order to promote competition in the market, the Commission recommended the introduction of a number of remedies under the Fair Trading Act 1973.

This will require veterinary surgeons, manufacturers and veterinary wholesalers to change some of their practices in order to reduce barriers to entry by pharmacies and increase the transparency of information to animal owners so that they can better understand and compare prices.

Accepting the Competition Commission recommendations, Trade and Industry secretary Patricia Hewitt said:

“The Competition Commission Report shows that the market in prescription-only veterinary medicines is not working as well as it might. Prices are too high. Once implemented, the Commission’s recommendations and proposed remedies should lead to greater choice for animal owners and increased competition in the market, while ensuring that we continue to protect both human and animal health.”