Veterinary Products Committee - what's it for?

The Veterinary Products Committee – what is it for?

There’s a group of people who meet three times a year at the offices of the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) in Surrey. They represent diverse interests within the veterinary profession and also some related interests from outside the veterinary world. The group is called the Veterinary Products Committee (VPC). 

The requirement for this independent scientific advisory Committee is enshrined in the Veterinary Medicines Regulations (VMR), which state that “There shall be a Veterinary Products Committee”. 

The veterinary surgeons on the current Committee represent small and large animal practice, health and food safety, pig, poultry and fish medicine, immunology, clinical pharmacology and parasitology; there’s a veterinary nurse, an SQP and a pharmacist; and the rest of the Committee is made up of an epidemiologist and statistician, a toxicologist, a molecular biologist, a clinical (human) microbiologist, a risk analyst, an environmental scientist, a working farmer and an emergency medicine doctor. The Committee is chaired by a vet. Committee members are appointed by the Secretary of State “from professional people who are eminent in their field” and any lay members as the Secretary of State sees fit. For example, the inclusion of an emergency medicine doctor was prompted by the high number of reports of needlestick injuries among veterinary professionals and animal handlers. Committee members are usually appointed for a period of 4 years. Membership changes are staggered so that there are always experienced members in post.

The role of this very diverse group of specialists and generalists is to give scientific advice on any aspect of veterinary medicines and specified feed additives. Scientific advice includes risk/benefit analysis, safety, quality and efficacy of veterinary medicines. The independence of the Committee is a key feature and members must declare any financial interests in the pharmaceutical industry and not take part in giving advice if there are competing interests. 

The VMD consults the Committee when it requires advice on specific scientific issues relating to marketing authorisations for medicines or animal test certificates (required in order to conduct clinical trials). It will use the advice to decide whether to grant or refuse applications or amend, suspend or revoke marketing authorisations or variations to existing authorisations.

The Committee considers reports of suspected adverse events to veterinary medicines and gives advice to the VMD. It also considers appeals from companies about the VMD’s intentions in relation to marketing authorisations or test certificates. Each year the Committee carries out an evaluation of a sample of the VMD's assessment of new applications for marketing authorisations. This is to provide a measure of the quality of the science-based decisions reached by the VMD's assessors. A summary of the minutes of VPC meetings are published on the VMD’s website.

The Veterinary Products Committee is a broad-thinking group. It can be seen as an interface between the regulator and everyday practice. It is a place where sometimes the conflicts between the rigidity of regulations and the variabilities of everyday practice become apparent. As well as responding to the needs of the VMD, the VPC is a forum for flagging up concerns and happenings in practice, with a view to solving problems and improving the safe and effective use of veterinary medicines. 

The VMD is currently looking to appoint four new members, including a mixed/small animal vet (closing date 23 August 2019). Click here for more information.

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