Opposition lawmakers and veterinarians yesterday called on health and agricultural officials to solve the problem of veterinarians being unable to obtain drugs urgently needed for pet treatment.
Following an inspection of a pharmaceutical company that sells “human-use drugs” to veterinary institutions, forcing the company to stop providing the drugs or else risk violating the Pharmaceutical Affairs Act (藥事法), many veterinarians now cannot obtain the drugs needed to treat pets, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁) said.
“While pets are considered family members by many people in Taiwan, the prohibition on selling drugs to veterinary institutions may put them at the risk of dying due to inadequate treatment,” Chen said, calling for an amendment of the act.
At a public hearing last month, Chen proposed that the Council of Agriculture and Department of Health speed up discussions and loosen the regulations to protect pets during the preparation period before the law’s amendment, DPP Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴) said
However, the legislators said the two departments had not responded, and DPP Legislator Chen Chieh-ju (陳節如) criticized them for passing the buck to each other.
According to Taipei Veterinary Medical Association president and Taiwan Veterinary Medical Association vice chairman Yang Ching-yu (楊靜宇), Taiwan has a relatively small market for specialized pet drugs.
While the US is home to about 140 million cats and dogs and Japan 24 million cats and dogs, the pet population in Taiwan is only about 2 million, Yang said.
Due to the limited market size, there is no incentive for domestic pharmaceutical companies to manufacture pet drugs and given the strict regulations on imported pet drugs, most veterinarians resort to using human-use drugs in adjusted doses, he said.
“About 80 percent of the drugs used on pets in Taiwan are human-use drugs,” he said.
However, many veterinary institutions are now facing stock shortages because pharmaceutical companies are afraid to sell to them, he said, adding that some elderly pets with chronic diseases that rely on drugs could die after two to three days without treatment.
Allowing human-use drugs to be used on pets is only seen in exceptional cases in other countries, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) thinks the Animal Protection Act (動物保護法) should be amended to regulate such cases, it said.
The FDA will evaluate the list of authorized pet drugs proposed by the council in the future, FDA official Tzou Meir-Chyun (鄒玫君) said.
The council’s Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine’s Animal Health Inspection division chief, Chiu Chui-chang (邱垂章), said the division would discuss the list of pet drugs within a week and submit the list to the FDA for approval.