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Anaesthetic shortage forces vets to cancel ops on pets

Suki with PDSA Vet Nurse Claire Urwin (Ian McClelland)
Suki with PDSA Vet Nurse Claire Urwin (Ian McClelland)

VETS are being forced to cancel pets’ operations because of a worldwide shortage of a key anaestethic.

Production problems mean sedative isoflurane is in short supply and vets have been urged to postpone routine operations.

Isoflurane, the most commonly used anaesthetic in veterinary operations, will be scarce until March after a breakdown in production at a factory making a component of it.

Now vets are having to prioritise operations and have been advised to keep supplies of the drug – most commonly supplied as IsoFlo – for emergency use only.

Dave Leicester, head of clinical intelligence at Vets Now, said: “This is a profession-wide issue, and we are all collaborating to ensure that the welfare of animals is paramount.

“In some scenarios, non-essential elective surgeries may need to be delayed, but we do not expect there to be any negative effect on outcomes.

“The only medication affected by this current shortage is the anaesthetic agent isoflurane.”

Isoflurane’s makers, Zoetis, supplies two thirds of the UK market.

Zoetis says it has informed the UK Government’s Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) of the acute shortage.

A spokeswoman said: “We were very recently notified that our contracted third party manufacturing facility has had to cease production of the active pharmaceutical ingredient of IsoFlo with immediate effect due to a mechanical issue on the production line.

“We are now unable to supply IsoFlo to meet the normal practice demand in the period from December, 2018, to March, 2019.

“To mitigate the impact, we have tried to source alternative IsoFlo from other markets including the USA but have not been able to secure a supply.”

The VMD has issued a statement offering guidance to vets seeking to import back-up supplies.

VMD said: “Due to ongoing UK supply problems with isoflurane-containing products, the VMD has recently assessed products for import under the Special Import Scheme.”

It urged vets to apply to the VMD for import certificates.

The Scottish Government said: “The supply and regulation of veterinary medicines is a reserved issue under the lead of the VMD.

“We are working closely with them, including to highlight and mitigate any potential supply issues in the coming months.”