Your responsibility as a veterinarian
An important element in the delivery of professional veterinary services is the provision of a wide range of pharmaceuticals, biologicals and pesticides to clients. The veterinarian’s right to prescribe, authorise or dispense such substances also carries significant legal and ethical responsibilities. The AVA Prescribing, Authorising and Dispensing Guidelines are regarded as minimum standards expected from a veterinary practitioner exercising reasonable skill and care in the treatment of animals. All veterinarians should ensure that they are familiar with these guidelines and the relative legislation of the jurisdiction(s) in which they practice.
Veterinarians must be familiar, and comply with the current Commonwealth and State/Territory legislation relating to the supply and use of veterinary medicines and pesticides. The rules in different jurisdictions vary. Links to each jurisdiction's legislation can be found in the AVA© Prescribing, Authorising and Dispensing Guidelines. Any breach of the relevant legislation could constitute unprofessional conduct.
Client relationship and understanding
Any prescribing or supply of veterinary medicines should only occur within the bounds of a valid veterinarian-client relationship. A client must also understand instructions and be able to correctly administer the drugs.
Adverse drug reactions
Veterinarians should report any adverse drug reactions to the manufacturer and the Australian Pesticide and Veterinary Medicines Authority through the Adverse Experience Reporting Program.
The quantity of drugs dispensed must be commensurate with the therapeutic need. The veterinarian should take all reasonable steps by way of accurate record keeping, to ensure that the drugs supplied were all used or would be used for the specific purpose intended.
In food-producing animals, the responsibility for advising of withholding periods, export slaughter intervals, and exact dose of the drug for the specific condition, rests with the veterinarian for each case in which the drug is used. This cannot be achieved if drugs are used for conditions other than those for which they were supplied. The occurrence of unacceptable residues as a result of over-prescribing may place the veterinarian in a legally-vulnerable position.
'Off-label' drugs, compounded medicines and antibiotics
It's important to familiarise yourself with the guidelines for the use of 'off-label' drugs, compounded medicines and antibiotics.
The dispensing of drugs by veterinarians for competing animals (horses and greyhounds) should be undertaken with care to ensure that the requirements of the relevant controlling authorities, that animals compete ‘drug free’, are met. This extends to all forms of competition, including eventing and dressage.
The supply of drugs to any person who is not the owner or responsible agent for the animal is not permitted under drugs and poisons legislation. Accordingly, supply of drugs to a third party where the veterinarian has not personally established a therapeutic need for the animal(s) intended to receive the treatment could be considered wholesaling. The veterinarian who supplies drugs in such a manner is abrogating his or her responsibility to establish and record therapeutic need, to control the dose and frequency of use of the drug, to provide follow-up and after-care, and to ensure correct use of the drug and understanding of its use, and any contraindications, by the end user.