Horse owners will need a prescription to obtain worming treatments in future following a recent European Parliament ruling, which has received mixed reactions in the industry.

The ruling will restrict options for purchasing worming treatment, and appears at odds with the recent UK competition commission ruling that monopoly situations exist in the veterinary medicines market.

However, there is cautious optimism among suppliers that, when the government has thrashed out details during the two-year implementation period for the EU ruling, vets may not be the only source of prescriptions for wormers.

Vets also say that if owners consult them more over worming strategy they could make long-term savings.

In December, MEPs voted against an amendment to new EU legislation allowing farmers and horse owners to continue to buy veterinary medicines from non-veterinary sources. However, the proposed changes to UK legislation would allow suitably qualified people (SQP) to continue distributing such products, enabling “prescriptions” to be written by SQPs other than vets.

Claire Williams, chief executive of the British Equestrian Trade Association (BETA), says: “We’re disappointed at the result of the vote, but also optimistic. We hope to work with the government over the next couple of years to achieve a solution by which medicines for horses currently classified as pharmacy and merchants list (PML) products — such as wormers — can continue to be supplied by SQPs working for registered saddlers.”

If wormers were only available through a vet, a welfare problem could develop because the cost of getting treatment would rise. This outcome is also likely to be extremely unpopular with horse owners. However a number of high profile vets believe more veterinary involvement in worm control would be positive.

Alistair Barr, chief executive of the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA), says: “Strategic advice from the vet on worming might actually save owners money in the long-term, in an era when resistance is an ever increasing problem, we could see benefits in terms of appropriate use of drugs.”

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