How veterinary medicines can be advertised.
This guidance is aimed at vets, suitably qualified persons (SQPs), pharmacists, marketing authorisation holders (MAHs), manufacturers of veterinary medicines and wholesale dealer authorisation (WDA) holders. It is intended to provide guidance on the advertising restrictions on veterinary medicine in the UK.
This guidance refers to the following 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)
The Veterinary Medicines Regulations (VMR) sets out the restrictions on who may advertise veterinary medicines and to what audience.
You must not advertise a medicine:
- that is only available on prescription (POM-V, POM-VPS and products prescribed under the cascade) to the general public
- that is not authorised for use in the UK, including medicines that have been imported under the Special Import Scheme and extemporaneously prepared products (also known as specials)
- in a way that makes a claim that is not in line with its Summary of Product Characteristics (SPC)
- in a way that is misleading
If you think an advert for a veterinary medicine doesn’t comply with the VMR, report it to the VMD’s Enforcement team by emailing: email@example.com.
What is considered advertising
Advertising is any activity that is aimed or designed to promote the sale, supply or use of a veterinary medicine, whether for profit or not. This includes electronic advertising (for example website banners, emails). 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 a particular veterinary medicine
- presentations and other verbal communications
What is not considered advertising
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 of prescription medicines are not mentioned
- all other advertising restrictions are met
Educational information may name active substances and contain a small strap line at the top or bottom of the article stating ‘this information was provided by [company] makers of [product]’
Presentations of treatment options and opinions on authorised medicines used in accordance with their SPC to vets at conferences or training events is allowed.
Presentations of treatment options and opinions on medicines prescribed under the cascade (for example authorised medicines used outside the terms of the SPC, human medicines or extemporaneous products), between vets at conferences or training events are allowed, providing that:
- no company or product-specific recommendations or endorsements are given
- presentations are unbiased and factual
- no trade names of medicines prescribed under the cascade are mentioned however, references can be made to active ingredients
The use of pictures of veterinary medicines in presentations must comply with the advertising restrictions. For example, there should not be brand names or company logos visible in pictures of products not authorised in the UK or products being used under the prescribing cascade.
It is considered good practice for vets to declare any affiliations to pharmaceutical companies when presenting treatment options and opinions to vets at conferences or training events.
Advertising prescription medicines
You can only advertise veterinary medicines classed as POM-V in promotions aimed at the following:
- vet nurses
- professional keepers of animals – this excludes antibiotic medicines which are prohibited from being advertised to professional keepers of animals, including farmers
You can only advertise veterinary medicines classed as POM-VPS in promotions aimed at the following:
- suitably qualified persons
- other veterinary health care professionals
- professional keepers of animals
Advertising non-prescription medicines
There are no restrictions on the advertising of veterinary medicines classified as NFA-VPS and AVM-GSL as long as the:
- information in the advert isn’t misleading
- claims are accurately taken from the products’ SPCs
There are no restrictions on the advertising of products that come under the exemptions for small pet animals.
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 products in a particular category, for example all prescription wormers
- use the same size text and images for all products
- use consistent font size, colour and formatting
- only use images that show the medicine with UK authorised packaging
- refer to the product by 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.
Online search engines
Sponsored/paid for adverts on internet search engines are by definition an advertisement and therefore fall under the advertising restrictions set down in the VMR.
However the VMD recognises that search engines are a useful tool to help customers to shop online efficiently. Therefore the VMD considers it acceptable for online retailers to use these adverts to direct customers to their websites in response to a search for a specific POM-V or POM-VPS medicines. However, the use of non-specific terms to advertise prescription veterinary medicines is not acceptable. For example, if a customer searches for the specific name of a prescription medicine in a search engine, an online retailer may name only that product and the price in the advert to direct the customer to their site. If a customer uses non-specific search terms such as “arthritis in dogs” or “feline kidney problems” this should not result in prescription medicines being advertised.
You must use medicines based on their medical suitability rather than for any financial gain. Suppliers of medicines should not undertake promotions such as discounts or ‘buy one get one free’ to try to influence prescribers of medicines.
Support advertising claims
If you are a product’s marketing authorisation holder you must make sure that any advertising claims you make are supported by information in the product’s SPC.
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.
- Use antibiotics responsibly
- Accurate prescribing and administration helps to reduce resistance
Wholesale Dealer authorisation holders
Wholesale dealers may only send a price list of authorised human medicines to a vet for use under the cascade on request. The list must clearly state that the products do not have a veterinary marketing authorisation and that they should only be prescribed and administered under the cascade.
Manufacturers of extemporaneous preparations for use under the cascade
Manufacturers of extemporaneous preparations (also known as veterinary specials) may not advertise the specific substances that they can manufacture but they may promote the services they provide to vets.
They may provide information on the different types of dosage forms that can be produced. They may not make medicinal claims or refer to specific diseases or conditions.
On a vet’s request, the manufacturers of extemporaneous preparations may provide a list of active substances, formulations with prices and placebo samples.