Advertise veterinary medicines legally

How pharmacists, manufacturers of veterinary medicines and other professionals can advertise veterinary medicines.

The Veterinary Medicines Regulations (VMR) sets out the restrictions on who may advertise veterinary medicines.

If you’re concerned about an advert you’ve seen for a veterinary medicine, report it to the VMD

Advertising is any activity that is aimed or designed to promote the sale, supply or use of a veterinary medicine, including electronic advertising (for example website banners, emails), but not including price lists.

These activities are considered advertising whether they are for profit or not.

Some examples of types of promotional adverts are:

  • mail shot emails to customers
  • postal flyers
  • website banners or pop ups
  • sponsored banners on internet search engines
  • text providing information about animal illnesses that specifically promotes the use of a particular veterinary medicine

Veterinary prescription medicines can feature in sponsored/paid for adverts on internet search engines. These searches are carried out by people who have been issued with a prescription for the medicine by a veterinary surgeon, which results in a list of retailers who can supply that medicine.

This guidance refers to these distribution categories:

  • Prescription Only Medicine – Veterinarian (POM-V)

  • Prescription Only Medicine – Veterinarian, Pharmacist, SQP (POM-VPS)

  • Non-Food Animal – Veterinarian, Pharmacist, SQP (NFA-VPS)

  • Authorised Veterinary Medicine – General Sales List (AVM-GSL)

Advertising restrictions

You must not advertise:

  • medicines available on prescription to the general public

  • medicines that aren’t authorised for use in the UK, including products that have an import certificate

  • medicines in a way that they haven’t been authorised for, for example not in line with the Summary of Product Characteristics (SPC), or in a way that is misleading

Restrictions on POM-V

You can only advertise veterinary medicines classed as POM-V in publications aimed at the following:

  • vets

  • pharmacists

  • vet nurses

  • professional keepers of animals – this excludes antibiotic medicines which are prohibited from being advertised to professional keepers of animals, for example farmers

Restrictions on POM-VPS

You can only advertise veterinary medicines classed as POM-VPS in publications aimed at the following:

  • vets

  • pharmacists

  • suitably qualified persons

  • other veterinary health care professionals

  • professional keepers of animals

Products with no advertising restrictions on the audience

There are no restrictions on the advertising of veterinary medicines classified as NFA-VPS and AVM-GSL so long as the:

  • information in the advert isn’t misleading

  • claims are taken from the products’ SPCs

There are no restrictions on the advertising of products that come under the exemptions for small pet animals.

Educational information aimed at giving a balanced overview of a disease and all available treatments may be made available to the general public as long as products or brand names are not mentioned and all other advertising restrictions are met.

Price lists

Price lists are not considered as advertising material as long as all products are listed with equal prominence.

You must do all of the following to avoid your price list being classed as an advert:

  • include a list of all medicines in a particular category

  • use the same size text and images for all products

  • use consistent font size, colour and formatting

  • only use images that show the product with UK authorised packaging

  • the name of the medicine should be its full authorised name

You should also make sure the name of each medicine, its image and a description is in line with the product’s SPC.

Selection of medicines for promotion

You must choose medicines for promotion based on their medical suitability rather than for any financial gain.

You should not allow promotions like discounts or buy one get one free that try to influence the person who prescribes the medicines.

Support advertising claims

As the marketing authorisation holder you must make sure that any advertising claims you make are supported by information in the product’s SPC.

Antimicrobial products

For the purpose of this provision, antimicrobials mean antibiotics, which are antibacterial in their action. All antibiotic products authorised in the UK are POM-V. Promotion of antibiotics should not encourage unnecessary use of these medicines and all advertising material should contain a strap line indicating that the prescription and use of the medicine should be in accordance with the responsible use of antibiotics.

For example:

  • Use antibiotics responsibly

  • Accurate prescribing and administration helps to reduce resistance

NOAH has also published additional guidance on antibiotics.

Wholesale Dealer authorisation holders

Wholesale dealers may send a price list of authorised human medicines to a vet for use under the cascade only when requested. The list must clearly state that the products do not have a veterinary Marketing Authorisation.

Specials Manufacturers

Specials Manufacturing Authorisation (ManSa) holders may advertise the services they provide but not the specific substances that can be manufactured.

They may provide information on the different types of dosage forms that are available.

On a vet’s request, the ManSa holder may provide a list of active substances, formulations with prices and placebo samples.

Published 1 June 2015
Last updated 23 April 2018 + show all updates
  1. Reviewed with minor changes
  2. First published.