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The Veterinary Medicines Directorate has suspended the sale of all injectable formulations of the vital painkiller flunixin. Flunixin is the most commonly used analgesic in horses with colic, undergoing surgery and for other conditions. The British Equine Veterinary Association is calling for the suspension to be overturned in horses not destined for the human food chain, to reduce the potential impact on equine welfare.

Flunixin is used throughout the equine veterinary profession because of its highly potent analgesic effects. It is the only medicine licensed for the treatment of sepsis (endotoxaemia). The VMD’s decision reflects European Medicines Agency guidance relating to the human safety of the solvent used in the injectable formulation, not the active ingredient. To date, no recall notices have been issued and therefore veterinary surgeons may continue to prescribe medicines held in stock, although disruption to the supply chain will result in shortages of this medicine in clinical practice.

Jonathan Pycock, BEVA president said: “BEVA is fully supportive of all attempts to promote food safety, however flunixin is widely viewed as the gold-standard pain killer in horses and is commonly used in horses undergoing both elective and emergency surgery, for the crippling pain associated with laminitis and for severe forms of colic. 

“BEVA is calling on the VMD to immediately enable limited batch release of flunixin for use in horses not destined for the human food chain in the interests of animal welfare. The equine veterinary profession has always been open to consultation with the VMD on a range of important matters relating to responsible medicine use, antibiotic resistance, horse identification, passports and the horse meat issue. BEVA is perplexed as to why the VMD failed to consult with the equine veterinary industry on the animal welfare impact of withdrawing such an important drug.”

More information can be found on the BEVA website. 

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