Animals have similar needs to humans; they can get sick and can suffer from diseases.

There are numerous people in the animal health industry who can advise you on the best treatments for your pet. However, with an estimated 51 million pets in the UK, there are now several other places, apart from veterinary practices, where you can purchase veterinary products; including wormers or parasite treatments, which help to look after the health of your pet.

Veterinary Surgeons are the main providers of veterinary medicines. However, there are also SQP (Suitably Qualified Person – known as RAMA – Registered Animal Medicine Advisor) and Animal Pharmacists who can provide you with veterinary products. Veterinary medicines are tightly controlled by law in the UK.

SQP’s and Animal Pharmacists can both provide you with information on basic care; however, should you have a medical problem with your pet which is of concern, then please speak to your veterinary surgeon.

What are the classifications of medications for animals?

POM-V – Prescription Only Medicine, Veterinarian. 

This classification of medicines may only be prescribed by a veterinary surgeon and can only be supplied by a vet or a registered pharmacist. Many medicines used in animals fit into this category and include medicines like antibiotics and pain relief. 

POM-VPS – Prescription Only Medicine, Veterinarian/Pharmacist/Suitably Qualified Person.

These are medicines, generally, for the prevention, rather than treatment, of disease, in food-producing species (cattle, sheep, pigs, and horses). They can be prescribed by a vet, or a pharmacist, or a Suitably Qualified Person, or SQP.

NFA-VPS – Non-Food Animal, Veterinarian/Pharmacist/Suitably Qualified Person. 

The medicines in this category are mainly used in preventing disease such as flea and worm treatment. 

AVM-GSL – Authorised Veterinary Medicine, General Sales List. 

The medications that are AVM-GSL are not regulated medicines and have the least ability to cause harm and can be sold by anyone. However, these are potentially the least effective medicines on the market. 

SAES – Small Animal Exemption Scheme

In this category, the medicines are used in small pets (cage birds, gerbils, guinea pigs etc.) and are normally a parasite treatment.

What are SQPs?

SQPs, now known as Registered Animal Medicines Advisor (RAMA), is the name AMTRA gives to those people described as Suitably Qualified Persons (SQP’s) by the Veterinary Medicines Regulations

All Registered Animal Medicines Advisors have an important and responsible role, contributing to animal health and, in the case of farm livestock, farm profitability. All SQPs who are on the register are entitled to prescribe and/or supply certain veterinary medicines under the Veterinary Medicines Regulations, but to do so must act professionally including following the rules of the Code of Practice.

To become an SQP, requires passing both written and oral exams, but that is not the end of the process: being a SQP means an on-going commitment including acting responsibly, following the rules in Code of Practice, advising animal owners on choice of medicine and their safe and effective use, as well as other strategies, contributing to the health and welfare of their animals. All SQPs must also do on-going learning known as CPD (continuing professional development) to remain up to date with the current animal health issues.

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What sort of people are SQPs?

SQPs work in a variety of work environments – in veterinary practices, in agricultural or equine businesses, in pet shops. They can deal with customers face-to-face or via the telephone or Internet, but the legal and professional responsibilities must remain all the time.

What medicines can RAMAs prescribe and/or supply?

The veterinary medicines which SQPs can prescribe and supply depends on the registration that they hold. Some SQPs are companion animal only (so can only supply medication to animals like cats and dogs), some are equine, and some are farm animal. There are SQPs who hold the registration to prescribe/supply to all species. 

What is an Animal Pharmacist?

A Veterinary (Animal) Pharmacist is also an Animal Health Professional, like the SQP. The primary difference is that an Animal Pharmacist has a doctoral degree and advanced training, relating to the use of pharmaceutical products.

The duties of the Animal Pharmacist will vary depending on where they work, such as in a university, for a veterinary drug corporation, for a veterinary related business, or for a regulatory agency. 

What medication can Animal Pharmacists supply?

While it is only the veterinary surgeons who can diagnose a condition in animals, pharmacists can prescribe or supply a veterinary medicine, due to their registration and affiliation with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC).

The Veterinary Medicine Directorate has extremely specific requirements for the prescribing and supplying of veterinary medicines by pharmacists. It states that:

  • Pharmacists can only dispense medicines that have been prescribed by a Veterinary Surgeon (POM-V), this is something SQPs can not do. But pharmacists can also dispense medication under the POM-VPS, in accordance with a written prescription by a registered veterinary surgeon, pharmacist or SQP.
  • Dispense human medication for use under the cascade in accordance with a written prescription from a veterinary surgeon.
  • Prescribe and supply POM-VPS veterinary medicines.
  • Supply NFA-VPS medicines.

Are SQPs and Animal Pharmacists similar?

The main aim for SQPs and Animal Pharmacists alike is to provide the best product which you have been advised to use for both the animal and for the owner.

Both SQPs and Animal Pharmacists have many skills that are taught and developed.

They listen carefully to what is being said by the owner, whilst evaluating the options which are available, drawing on a wealth of knowledge to prescribe and supply the appropriate product or simply to give advice. Remember, SQPs and Animal Pharmacists are not allowed to make a diagnosis of your pet and their potential health condition; this is the responsibility of a Veterinary Surgeon.

Animal Pharmacists and SQP’s have many other responsibilities when supplying veterinary medicines, such as ensuring that the product will be used safely and appropriately. The pharmacist and SQP MUST be present when handing over the medication and be satisfied that the owner is competent to use the product safely.

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SQPs and Animal Pharmacists can offer free and impartial advice, to get the best for your pet and from the product. Remember, should you have any concerns about your pet’s health, you must seek veterinary advice.

By Dawn Prime Veterinary Practice SQP of the Year 2019 and Overall SQP of the Year 2019 Practice Support Staff 2020 at Pet Plan Awards