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Prescription Misuse

The Veterinary Medicines Regulations set down the requirements for prescriptions for veterinary medicines. Schedule 3 paragraph 6 sets down the information that must be contained on a veterinary prescription:

Schedule 3 paragraph 6:

Written prescriptions

6. (1) A written prescription must include

  • (a) the name, address and telephone number of the person prescribing the product;
  • (b) the qualifications enabling the person to prescribe the product;
  • (c) the name and address of the owner or keeper;
  • (d) the identification (including the species) of the animal or group of animals to be treated;
  • (e) the premises at which the animals are kept if this is different from the address of the owner or keeper;
  • (f) the date of the prescription;
  • (g) the signature or other authentication of the person prescribing the product;
  • (h) the name and amount of the product prescribed;
  • (i) the dosage and administration instructions;
  • (j) any necessary warnings;
  • (k) the withdrawal period if relevant; and
  • (l) if it is prescribed under the cascade, a statement to that effect.

(2) A written prescription for a controlled drug as specified in the Misuse of Drugs Regulations 2001 is valid for 28 days.

(3) A written prescription for any other drug is valid for six months or such shorter period as may be specified in the prescription.

(4) If the prescription is repeatable it must specify the number of times the veterinary medicinal product may be supplied.

It is an offence under Schedule 3 paragraph 5(3) to alter a written prescription unless authorised by the person who signed it.

Types of prescription misuse:

Prescription misuse is considered to fall within two categories

  1. Alteration of an existing prescription
  2. Prescription fraud

Some examples of alterations are:

  • Change to the date the prescription was signed
  • Change of quantity of the product
  • Inclusion of additional medicines

Some examples of fraud are:

  • Supplying same prescription to multiply retailers for supply
  • Forgery of signature of Veterinary surgeon, Pharmacist or SQP

How do we handle reports of prescription misuse?

Each reported incident of prescription misuse will be treated on a case by case basis. However we will generally follow these guidelines:

  • Altered prescriptions for non-food producing species: A warning letter will be sent for the first offence in line with our published enforcement strategy.
  • Fraud, altered prescriptions for food producing species, repeat offences of altering prescriptions (both food and non-food species): All reports will be passed to Defra Investigation Service for investigation with a view to seeking prosecution.

How to report incidents of prescription fraud/tampering:

The VMD encourages the reporting of potential misuse of veterinary prescriptions.

Information gathering exercise:

In March 2012 the VMD launched an information gathering exercise on the misuse of veterinary prescriptions. The exercise ran for eight weeks and closed on 25 May 2012. Details of the exercise can be found below along with a summary of the information received.


Following on from the Information Gathering exercise we have reviewed our existing guidance. The amended guidance can be found here. It is our intention that this information will be included in VMGN No. 3 - Guidance for Retailers when it is updated as part of the 2013 Veterinary Medicines Regulations review.

Useful Links:

For more information on prescription misuse please contact Denise Burge (01932 338316, d.burge@vmd.defra.gsi.gov.uk) in the Legislation Team or Amanda Baker (01932 338313 a.baker@vmd.defra.gsi.gov.uk) in the Enforcement Team.

Last Updated: 18 April 2013

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