The market for illegal veterinary medicines is worth $2 billion a year globally, and it’s not just a risk to animal health.
Animal Medicines Australia (AMA) has highlighted how illegal products may increase risks to animal health by not working as expected.
However, just as importantly for the farm sector, fake or unregistered products may compromise food safety, increase the risk of antimicrobial resistance (AMR) and lower agricultural productivity.
A new report into illegal animal medicines from international body HealthforAnimals has identified a big market in counterfeit, falsified and unregistered products and unapproved parallel imports.
“Ensuring animal medicines are genuine and administered according to the label or veterinary instructions are important for them to be effective and help keep our animals healthy,” said AMA executive director, Ben Stapley.
The monetary cost and the loss of consumer trust that comes with fake medicines entering the market are part of findings in the report by AMA’s international partner organisation.
That the market has been able to get to this size and is growing is concerning.
Last year, the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) in a joint operation with the Australian Border Force and Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) seized dozens of counterfeit and illicit medicines destined for unwitting Australian consumers, including farmers.
Mr Stapley said it was a reminder to pet owners and livestock producers about the dangers of obtaining medicines from unknown or unapproved sources.
“None of the medicines confiscated had been through Australia’s robust regulatory scheme,” he said.
“That the market has been able to get to this size and to know it is growing is concerning.”
He said the sort of preventative action pet owners and farmers could take to ensure their animal medicines were genuine included:
• Look for the APVMA approval number on the label
• Ensure the container had a tamper evident seal
• Ensure medicines are prescribed by a qualified veterinarian
• If your vet has given you a script to fill elsewhere, use only reputable online pharmacies
• Ensure over the counter products, such as flea collars and worm treatments, are bought from reputable retailers.
“Our pets and livestock rely on us to meet their health and welfare needs,” he said.
“Animal owners have a responsibility to make sure the medicines we give them are genuine and approved.”