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OFT agrees to drop ‘top ten medicines’ requirement

11 March 2013

Veterinary practices no longer have to include information on a poster in their waiting rooms to tell clients what the top ten medicines they supply are, and their costs, thanks to pressure from the College, as we felt the poster did not entirely serve its purpose.

Following discussion with us towards the end of 2012, the Office of Fair Trading (OFT), has agreed that the requirement be dropped, initially for a six-month period.

Having seen how this has worked in practice, we have been keen to push for change because it was felt that the list could be confusing to clients.

The requirement for the poster was brought in following the Competition Commission investigation into veterinary medicine sales in 2005, as part of a range of measures. Some of the responsibilities were enforced via the College as an alternative to legislation under the Fair Trading Act, to ensure that clients have access to sufficient information to be able to decide where to obtain veterinary prescriptions and medicines.

The poster, which was outlined in the Guide to Professional Conduct, and subsequently the Code of Professional Conduct, had to include information about prescriptions and repeat prescriptions, together with the ‘ten relevant veterinary medicinal products most commonly prescribed during a recent and typical three-month period’.

How ‘most commonly prescribed’ has been calculated has often varied – for example, by price, volume, number of prescriptions, etc – and, in addition, different formulations, brands or pack sizes of the same active ingredient could cause confusion.

“Having seen how this has worked in practice, we have been keen to push for change because it was felt that the list could be confusing to clients,” says RCVS President, Jacqui Molyneux. 

“We have also been mindful of the fact that the ways in which consumers access information has changed radically over the last seven years or so, with internet searches becoming more prevalent.

“These factors conspired to make the list less meaningful as a tool that allowed consumers to shop around. It is thus hoped that the removal of the list will reduce potential misunderstanding among the public.”

During the first six months following the change, the College and the OFT will monitor the situation. If there is no appreciable level of complaint from the public, the change will become permanent.

The other requirements of supporting guidance to the Code of Professional Conduct Chapter 10 (Fair Trading Requirements) remain unchanged, and the OFT recommends that the notice advising clients that they can obtain a prescription from the practice be made even more prominent.

In addition, it remains important that veterinary surgeons communicate medicines prices clearly to their clients and other callers, and that invoices itemise individual products supplied.

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