Legal requirement for the sale of veterinary medicines on the internet and the VMD Accredited Internet Retailer Scheme (AIRS).
As a vet, pharmacist or suitably qualified person selling veterinary medicines on the internet you must comply with the Veterinary Medicines Regulations 2013.
- sell only veterinary medicines authorised for sale in the UK
- supply the medicines from appropriately registered or approved UK premises
- properly prescribe and supply the most appropriate medicine to treat the animal’s disease or condition
- advise your customers on how to use the medicine safely and on any contra-indications or warnings
See the Retail of veterinary medicines page for more information about the retail sale of veterinary medicines.
Accredited internet retailer scheme (AIRS)
The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) accredits UK-based retailers of veterinary medicines who meet the AIRS criteria. Most of the criteria are existing legal requirements for selling veterinary medicines, so you should already be complying with them. There are some additional criteria, such as having links to your professional body’s website on your website so that your customers can verify your details.
The scheme is voluntary and free.
Apply for accreditation
Complete and return theto the address given on the form.
We will check it’s been correctly completed and contact you within 10 days if there is any missing information. We’ll assess your website and the documented procedures you’ve sent with your application. We’ll provide you with detailed feedback within 6 weeks.
We’ll send you your AIRS logo to display on your website if your website and procedures meet the AIRS criteria. The logo will have your unique AIRS reference number and a link to the list of accredited internet retailers so that customers can check you are an accredited retailer.
We’ll tell you what changes you need to make if you aren’t meeting the AIRS criteria.
Following accreditation, we will review your internet retailing procedures as part of our routine inspection of your registered/approved premises.
Assessment criteria for AIRS
Internet retailers who wish to be accredited under the VMD’s accredited retailer scheme and be able to display the VMD AIRS logo on their website, will be assessed for compliance with criteria shown below.
Only internet retailers supplying veterinary medicinal products (VMPs) will be considered for membership of AIRS. These will be medicines classified as:
- Prescription Only Medicine – Veterinarian (POM-V)
- Prescription Only Medicine – Veterinarian, Pharmacist, SQP (POM-VPS)
- Non-food Animal - Veterinarian, Pharmacist, SQP (NFA-VPS).
Note - SQP refers to a Suitably Qualified Person who is registered with a body recognised under the Veterinary Medicines Regulations.
General requirements relating to the supply of POM-V, POM-VPS and NFA-VPS products
Internet retailers supplying VMPs from registered veterinary practice premises (VPPs) and approved SQP Retailer premises must comply with the prescribing and supply procedures for VMPs set out on the Retail of veterinary medicines guidance page.
Pharmacists must comply with the requirements of the Veterinary Medicines Regulations and should observe any additional requirements of the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) or the Pharmaceutical Society of Northern Ireland (PSNI).
Internet retailer procedures
Documented procedures must be in place that describe how the following requirements are met:
- before prescribing and supplying a POM-VPS product, a veterinary surgeon, pharmacist or SQP (collectively referred to as Responsible Qualified Persons - RQPs) should assess the details provided by the customer.
- interaction with the customer at point of sale to ensure that sufficient information about the animal and the treatment for which the product is required is obtained. This is carefully considered so that the most appropriate VMP is prescribed and supplied.
- a similar procedure should be followed before supplying a NFA-VPS product. Such interaction should take place even if a customer asks for a specific product.
- when prescribing or supplying VMPs for horses, an RQP should establish whether or not the product is suitable for use in food producing horses and if not, that the horse has been signed out of the food chain. This is to allow horse keepers to fulfil their obligations regarding the horse passport legislation and retention of records for food producing animals.
- an RQP is available to advise the customer directly (e.g. by phone) if this is considered necessary to ensure the safe administration of the product.
- orders for VMPs with the potential for abuse, e.g. products containing controlled drugs, are subject to particular scrutiny by the RQP. Retailers should be alert to prescriptions for large quantities of such products, or abnormally frequent repeat prescriptions, and refuse to supply where there are reasonable grounds for suspecting misuse or abuse.
- customers are advised to consult a veterinary surgeon whenever information about the symptoms or condition described indicate that their best interests would be served by a face-to-face consultation with a veterinary surgeon.
- there is a system to record suspected forged or altered prescriptions and to report these to the VMD.
Additional requirements for the supply of POM-V medicines
VMPs classified as POM-V may only be retail supplied by:
- a veterinary surgeon from a registered veterinary practice premises (VPP)
- by a pharmacist from a pharmacy registered with the GPhC or PSNI
- or from a registered VPP, in accordance with a written prescription issued by a veterinary surgeon (Schedule 3 paras 3(2), 9 & 10)
When supplying POM-V products you should clearly indicate to potential customers browsing the website that a valid written prescription is required before a POM-V product can be supplied, and provide information on how such orders will be processed. You may also choose to indicate that POM-VPS products may also be supplied to a written prescription from a veterinary surgeon, pharmacist or SQP.
You should have in place systems to ensure that the correct POM-V medicine is supplied by a veterinary surgeon or pharmacist against a valid written prescription, and that the unlawful sale or supply of POM-V medicines is prevented. In particular:
you should satisfy yourselves that the prescriber and prescription are genuine and legally valid. This is particularly important where prescriptions are faxed or emailed. Contacting the prescriber by phone and checking the prescriber’s registration with the RCVS is considered a minimum step. It is also considered good practice for the retailer to request the hard copy of the prescription from the customer before any medicines are dispatched.
Controlled Drugs (CDs) may only be supplied against a hard copy written prescription but appropriate checks on the authenticity of the prescription must still be carried out.
you should have a system of control for supplying POM-Vs against repeat prescriptions.
you must record the supply of POM-V products against prescriptions written by veterinary surgeons located in the European Economic Area (EEA) and Switzerland for use in the EEA or Switzerland. You should have systems to check that the prescription is legitimate, that the prescriber is a registered veterinary surgeon in the EEA or Switzerland and that the entry of the medicine into that country is legal.
You may refuse supply of the medicine if sufficient assurances cannot be provided by the buyer.
You must comply with the record keeping requirements set out in the current Veterinary Medicines Regulations, and repeated in the main inspection criteria for VPPs and SQP Retailer premises.
Further information can also be found in on the Record-Keeping requirements for Veterinary Medicinal Products page.
have an online registration system to record the details of customers who wish to order POM-VPS or NFA-VPS products over the internet, and record relevant information about the animal for which the treatment is required, such as the species/breed, number, age, weight, sex, and previous treatments given. Such records should be kept up to date. If returning customers are permitted to ‘log-in’ without having to provide the information again there should be a confirmatory declaration that the details are unchanged with each order. An RQP should then make the necessary checks on the suitability of the product ordered before any products are prescribed or supplied.
prepare an online questionnaire for completion by customers to confirm whether they have administered the product previously, that they are aware of the relevant safety precautions relating to the product, and that they will read the packaging and product literature (e.g. the SPC) before using the product. Customers should be required to complete the questionnaire before they proceed to payment.
ideally have in place a procedure that, following the placing of an order for a POM-V product, the veterinary surgeon or pharmacist contacts the customer by email or telephone to enable the veterinary surgeon or pharmacist to discuss any issues before fulfilling the prescription. This procedure must be followed if there is any missing or conflicting information. The veterinary surgeon or pharmacist should also be prepared to follow this procedure if they’re not completely satisfied that the medicine to be supplied is appropriate for the animal or the condition to be treated, or if there is any safety concern regarding the product.
make and retain appropriate records of all interchanges, e.g. phone calls and emails, with customers.
Delivery & Returns
You should be aware that some carriers have restrictions on the transporting of veterinary medicines and should check the terms and conditions before dispatching VMPs by post.
You should take all reasonable measures to ensure that:
the integrity of VMPs that are subject to special storage conditions is not compromised during delivery to the customer. All products, particularly cold chain products such as vaccines, should be transported in such a way so that they are maintained within the temperature range specified on their SPC/label.
delivery agents, including their own staff, are aware of any special handling and storage requirements for the VMPs, and are aware of what action to take in the event of such incidents as accidents, spillages and non-delivery.
Whilst not a legal requirement, it is recommended that special/recorded delivery is used for POM-V and POM-VPS products.
You should have a procedure for quarantining and ultimately appropriately disposing of returned VMPs.
Other Legislative requirements
Other legislative requirements may apply to the sale or supply of VMPs over the internet, such as:
Accredited internet retailers must display on their website:
- the name of the owner of the business and a correspondence address
- a postal address for the premises where the internet retailing business is carried out
- the name of the RQP responsible for the internet retailing business and information about how to confirm the registration status of that person e.g. links to their professional membership Registers
- the VMD logo which gives details of how to access the online VMD Register of Internet Retailers to enable the registration status of the internet retailer to be confirmed
- details about how to make a complaint to the business about their website’s services and, in the event of an unsatisfactory response from the business, to the VMD
The website should give instant access, via email address, phone number, fax number, to qualified personnel to answer questions about the products ordered.
Accredited internet retailers must notify the VMD if:
- they open or acquire a new website
- shutdown a website
- move their website to another address
- there is a change of ownership of the business
Accredited internet retailers must offer a link in their website to the VMD’s Product Information Database and explain that the Summary of Product Characteristics (SPCs) for the product purchased may be found there. They must also offer a link to the VMD’s Report an Adverse Event - yellow form - Suspected Adverse Reaction Surveillance Scheme page.
Security of the website and the VMD logo
Accredited internet retailers issued with the VMD logo must not:
- transfer, replicate or duplicate the logo for use by non-accredited internet retailers’ websites
- modify or have additional information or logos superimposed on it
- use the logo to mislead or misinform website users
You must comply with the advertising requirements of the current Veterinary Medicines Regulations.
For further guidance on what the VMD would consider to be a model internet retailer please use the contact email address below.