Virginiamycin for Equine Use to be Banned in U.K.

The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) of Great Britain's Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs announced July 10 that it will be phasing out the importation of the antibiotic drug virginiamycin for veterinary use. Importation of virginiamycin will be phased out over the next two years and will be banned completely from Sept. 30, 2014.

Virginiamycin is the active ingredient in Founderguard, a veterinary medicine used to prevent laminitis in horses; Founderguard is unauthorized in the United Kingdom but currently ca be imported from Australia by a veterinary surgeon under the VMD's Special Treatment Certificate Scheme.

Virginiamycin is a streptogramin defined by the World Health Organization as a class of antibiotics critically important in human medicines. The VMD has decided to phase out the use of Founderguard as there is no robust evidence to suggest that the continued use of virginiamycin will not pose a risk in terms of antimicrobial resistance developing.

There is no robust evidence that Founderguard prevents laminitis. This condition can be managed though animal husbandry and pasture management.

The phasing out of the use of Founderguard is part of the UK's approach to help to reduce the risk of resistant organisms developing to antibiotics and therefore helping to safeguard human health and animal health. The VMD encourages veterinary surgeons and horse owners to explore alternative arrangements in the management of laminitis.

The VMD's decision has been welcomed by the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) and the British Veterinary Association (BVA).

Keith Chandler, BVMS, CertEP, MRCVS, chair of the BEVA Health and Medicines Committee said, said "The British Equine Veterinary Association supports the staged withdrawal of Founderguard for use in the horses in the United Kingdom. Recent advances in the treatment and diagnosis of the underlying causes of laminitis have improved our understanding and management of the disease, however we do recognize that some horses have been managed with this medication successfully. The staged withdrawal will allow horse owners, in collaboration with their equine veterinary surgeon to find alternative treatment or management strategy for their animals."

Carl Padgett, BVMS, CertCHP, MRCVS, BVA president, added, "The British Veterinary Association supports the staged withdrawal of Founderguard (virginiamycin) which is in line with the BVA's policy of responsible use of all medicines, including minimizing prophylactic use of antimicrobials to reduce the risk of resistance. While the need for Founderguard has diminished as a result of our improving understanding of laminitis, a staged withdrawal will ensure a transitional period for horses already being prescribed the medicine.

"The threat of resistance in animals and humans is one that the BVA takes seriously and we support measures that promote the responsible use of these vital medicines," he continued. "In the particular case of virginiamycin and its importance as a critically important antimicrobial in human medicine, its use in horses is no longer justified."

The timetable for the phase-out is as follows:

  • Until Sept. 30, 2012, veterinary surgeons may continue to apply to the VMD to obtain STCs, but this cut-off date only applies to horses that have not previously been prescribed Founderguard;
  • From Oct. 1, 2012, veterinary surgeons will no longer be able to obtain STCs for Founderguard for horses that have not previously had the medicine prescribed; and
  • From Oct. 1, 2014, veterinary surgeons will no longer be able to obtain any STCs for Founderguard.
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