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NPA seeks answers from VMD on potential zinc oxide ban

15th Dec 2016 / By Alistair Driver

The NPA has written to the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) to outline its significant concerns about the potential EU ban on the use of veterinary products containing zinc oxide.

pigs feedingThe association has requested a meeting early in the New Year with the VMD and other industry bodies equally concerned at the prospect of a ban, including the Pig Veterinary Society, RUMA, AIC and Pig Health and Welfare Council.

The European Medicines Agency’s Committee on Veterinary Medicinal Products (CVMP) has recommended withdrawing existing marketing authorisations and refusing to grant new ones for veterinary medicinal products containing zinc oxide destined to be administered orally to food producing species.

The CVMP, made up of representatives of national authorities and agencies, including the VMD, acknowledged the benefits of zinc oxide for the prevention of diarrhoea.

But, by consensus, it concluded that, overall, the benefit-risk balance associated with zinc oxide was negative due to the risks to the environment. However, the committee acknowledged that the risk is not currently quantifiable.

The recommendation came as a bolt out of the blue to the industry. In her letter to the VMD, NPA senior policy advisor Georgina Crayford said the association accepted that the CVMP opinion was based on the scientific evidence available.

Insufficient evidence 

But she said: “However, clearly, and as stated by CVMP, there is insufficient evidence regarding the risk of development of resistance. Indeed, the strength of some of the existing science around this subject has been called into question. 

“Of course, the environmental risk of zinc oxide use is an important factor to consider, but in all previous assessments the CVMP has found the benefits of its use to outweigh the environmental risk, so you can understand our surprise at this apparent U-turn without clear explanation.

“There also appears to be a stark omission from the CVMP’s assessment – that of the risk of development of resistance due to the increased use of antimicrobials that will likely occur should the ban on therapeutic use of zinc oxide proceed.”

Georgina said a ban on the use of zinc oxide for oral treatment of pigs would result in increased incidence of post-weaning diarrhoea, which would negatively affect piglet welfare.

It would also seriously hamper the ability of the pig sector to reduce its use of antibiotics, as required by Government, she added.

“We would expect to see increased use of antibiotics above their current levels, which in turn may result in further development of bacterial resistance, jeopardising the health of both animals and humans,” she wrote.

The NPA is keen to establish the VMD’s position on the recommended ban. The letter asks it to share specific information on the grounds for recommendation of the removal of these products, while publication of the full CVMP Opinion is awaited.

“I would also like to encourage the VMD to request that CVMP allow for a consultation on this important matter to allow further evidence to be provided,” Georgina wrote.