Britain’s Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) has relaxed restrictions on the sale of equine painkiller flunixin and will allow its use in non-food producing horses.
Late last month the VMD suspended sales of injectable formulations of flunixin, along with several other medicines used in horses that contain the diethanolamine (DEA) as an inactive substance. The chemical has been classified by the International Agency for Research on Cancer as “possibly carcinogenic to humans”.
This led to the suspension of flunixin, as well as other injectable products including allevinix, dugnixon and pyroflam.
The VMD later said it had suspended products for food-producing animals (specifically cattle, pigs and horses) that contain DEA. “We have not suspended any products containing DEA used for companion animals only.”
It said that eight of the nine suspended products were solutions for injection for cattle and horses or cattle, horses and pigs containing flunixin meglumine – an NSAID. “The other suspended product is a suspension for injection for cattle, horses and pigs containing the antimicrobials trimethoprim and sulfadiazine.”
“Vets may, therefore, continue to prescribe products containing DEA while stock is available.”
Stock of flunixin held by manufacturers will be distributed alongside a ‘caution in use’ letter that will explain the restricted use of the product.
The British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) has welcomed the relaxation of the restrictions, which restored short-term access to the medicine. It also reminded equine vets that the horse’s food chain status must be checked when using the product – either using the paper passport or the recently launched chip checker on the central equine database website.
But BEVA President Jon Pycock said the association was concerned such steps were not put in place before the suspension of flunixin was imposed.
“Contrary to assertions by the VMD, wholesalers were unable to meet the demands of the veterinary profession and clinical use of this medicine was disrupted within 24 hours of the VMD’s initial announcement.
“We are surprised by the Regulator’s lack of awareness of availability in the supply chain and question why there was no consultation with the veterinary sector before the suspension was enacted. The VMD has been aware of this issue since March 2018 and it appears that no contingency was put in place to consider the animal welfare impact of this decision until it was too late,” Pycock said.
BEVA junior vice-president and equine surgery specialist Tim Mair said flunixin was a unique medicine in managing pain and sepsis in horses with colic.
“The VMD appeared to believe that this medicine could be substituted for other veterinary medicines and this is simply not the case. The release of stock from manufacturers is a short-term solution and, looking forward, we would like assurances that the VMD will fast-track applications for the modification of product licenses to ensure that equine vets have continued access to these products.”