Farmers will now have an alternative to purchasing antibiotics from their veterinarian with the opening of the first independent agriculture pharmacy in Ontario.
The GVF group of companies, which includes the Grand Valley Fortifiers feed manufacturer and Farmers Farmacy animal health and equipment supply company, received approval to launch Farmers Pharmacy Rx, a dispensary for livestock medications in late November.
Why it matters: Recent changes to federal antimicrobial regulations mean that farmers can only procure antimicrobials with a prescription from a veterinarian and then can only buy them from a veterinarian or a licensed pharmacy.
“We saw an opportunity, but we were also hearing from producer groups looking for an alternative to getting their products through veterinarians with the regulations now taking effect,” said David Ross, vice-president and chief marketing officer with the GVF group.
Farmers Farmacy was already selling antibiotics available over the counter before the new regulations went into effect Dec. 1, so they would have lost that market.
“From the Ontario Pork perspective, there was some concern that the vets were getting the whole package,” said John deBruyn, vice-chair of Ontario Pork. “We agree with the statement that scripts are written by vets. We have no problem with that.”
He said that most pork producers have a relationship with a veterinarian already.
“The fact that there is another option to purchase products is good for the industry, good for producers,” he said.
Previous to the new regulations, there were hundreds of licenced medicine outlets in the province where some injectable and some water-based medications could be purchased.
Ross said that 38 per cent of their antibiotic sales were in 25 kilogram bags, higher than they expected.
“We know that many vets will not be interested in trying to move 25 kg bags of medications around the province,” he said.
The larger bags are bought by poultry farmers and some hog farmers, who want the ability to respond quickly to a disease outbreak on their farms. If the treatment is not already in a premix, then they don’t want to wait until their next shipment of premix, instead using larger volume bags of antimicrobials to treat the issues in water or in feed.
The creation of the first animal-focused independent pharmacy was a big task and involved the purchase of a pharmacy licence more than 60 years old.
New pharmacy licences have to involve the pharmacist owning a majority of the shares in the company. However, there are licences available for purchase that are from before 1954. They were able to find one of those licences to purchase.
“That’s really what allowed us to get a licence to open a pharmacy,” said Ross.
The facilities also had to be approved by the College of Pharmacists and that included creating the ability for the pharmacist to lock and leave the pharmacy area when they aren’t there.
As a result, the Farmers Pharmacy part of the Farmers Farmacy supply store in Cambridge, has an area that can be locked up, locked up, similar to sites in supermarkets that contain a pharmacy with fewer operating hours than the rest of the store.
The pharmacist will be at the Farmers Pharmacy between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. Once the prescription has been filled, it can be shipped out at any time.
Ross doesn’t expect much walk-in traffic, but the company will deliver across the province, after a veterinarian’s prescription is received by email or by fax.
Deliveries will require a producer’s signature for release of the medication. Smaller volumes will be delivered by courier next day and larger bags will be delivered using the Grand Valley Fortifiers fleet of premix vehicles.