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Assurances on shortage of essential anaesthetic

A plant failure has led to a shortage of procaine hydrochloride, an anaesthetic widely used at this time of year, though there are assurances supplies will be back to normal next month.
A plant failure has led to a shortage of procaine hydrochloride, an anaesthetic widely used at this time of year, though there are assurances supplies will be back to normal next month.

Fears of shortages of an anaesthetic widely used on farm animals at this time of year have been addressed by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) – which has assured vets and farmers more supplies are in the pipeline.

The shortage of procaine hydrochloride, a drug which provides local and regional anaesthesia for a range of procedures including calving, lambing, Caesarean operations, castration and the dehorning of cattle, is due to the failure of a plant which supplies the raw material.

There is always a surge of demand for the product in the spring, which led vets to seek assurances enough would be available to see them through the next few weeks.

The VMD has now confirmed pronestesic, a procaine hydrochloride product, is available from suppliers, with normal UK availability of other procaine hydrochloride products expected in May.

British Veterinary Association (BVA) president Simon Doherty said some vet practices had been able to purchase only a fraction of their requirements.

“This would have resulted in a very acute impact on farm animal welfare,” he said.

“Although we had moved to get assurances sooner, we appreciate that there are formal routes for reporting and that the announcement of any shortage must be handled sensitively to avoid exacerbating the problem.

“VMD’s clarification is especially timely as this is a period of peak seasonal demand for these products.

“We will keep our members closely informed of any further developments.”

In the meantime, vets have been advised to make “due diligent” attempts to source a UK-authorised product before considering importing an alternative medicine.

NFU Scotland’s (NFUS) animal health and welfare policy manager, Penny Middleton, said: “Supplies are tight, but there are local anaesthetics are available.

“It is also possible to import supplies if none of the UK equivalents are available or suitable.”

She added: “Before planning routine procedures requiring local anaesthetic, we recommend you contact your vet to discuss availability of product and seek advice on timing.

“If your vet is having trouble sourcing product, we would recommend that they contact the VMD or the BVA to ask for their help locating supplies.”

nnicolson@thecourier.co.uk

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