Dáil Éireann - Volume 346 - 06 December, 1983

Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Control of Antibiotics.

3. Mr. S. Brennan asked the Minister for Health whether there are any figures available to him as to the failure rate of antibiotics being administered to young children or to hospital patients generally; whether the medical profession have made any complaints to him on the matter; and if he will make a statement.

Mr. B. Desmond: Figures are not available in respect of the two categories mentioned. A number of different reports based on studies carried out in various countries have been published since 1962 which show a notable rise in the incidence of organisms resistant to the usual antibiotics. The cases on which these reports were based were in most cases sampled outside hospitals.

I have not had complaints about a failure rate as referred to by the Deputy although I am, of course, aware of the profession's views in relation to the availability of antibiotics for veterinary purposes. As the Deputy is aware, the Minister for Agriculture proposes to introduce additional controls shortly on the supply and administration of such antibiotics.

Mr. S. Brennan: Is the Minister aware that a number of members of the medical profession were quoted recently as expressing concern about what they call the failure rate in hospitals? Would the Minister consider asking his Department to try to compile some hard information in the future in this area as it is important?

Mr. B. Desmond: My Department on a regular basis keep in very close touch with all of the health boards directly concerned. We have made inquiries through the medical director of the National Drugs Advisory Board and so far we have [1036] failed to elicit specific evidence of failure rates. I am aware of the reports in the newspapers. One newspaper, The Irish Times, reported on 3 November and that report is being examined and followed up.

Mr. S. Brennan: Can I pin this down? Is the Minister saying to me that in his Department's opinion there is little or no failure rate? Is that the official response?

Mr. B. Desmond: We seek information and specific evidence of failure rates. So far we have failed to elicit specific evidence. That is not to suggest that there are not any failure rates. So far we have not received notification of them.

4. Mr. S. Brennan asked the Minister for Health if he will bring forward specific proposals as a health measure to control the unlicensed sale of antibiotics and other drugs.

Mr. B. Desmond: Under the Poison Regulations, 1982, which came into force on 1 March 1983, the retail sale of antibiotics and other potent drugs, whether for human or veterinary use, is confined to pharmacies and licensed sellers.

Mr. S. Brennan: Could I ask the Minister one question on this because there is a whole area here which one could cover but I will not get side-tracked into that as I know you would not wish that? I know the Minister referred to this last week and I appreciate him taking time to look at it. Will the Minister make it necessary for the National Drugs Advisory Board to clear drugs which are put on the market for use in animals in the same way as these drugs have to be cleared for use in humans?

Mr. B. Desmond: I reconstituted the Poisons Council some months ago. That had not been done since 1978 and I did so for the purpose of examining the adequacy of the current controls and to advise me of the need for amendments. The Department of Agriculture have indicated that they propose to establish a consultative committee under the Animals [1037] Remedies Act, 1956, to advise the Minister on the making of regulations aimed at placing greater controls over the availability of veterinary antibiotics and hormones. My Department will be represented on that committee but there are substantial regulations in force already.

Mr. S. Brennan: Would the Minister consider a suggestion that the Drugs Advisory Board should clear drugs for use in animals in the same way as they have to clear drugs for humans? Could I also ask him once more if he has any specific proposals to make sure that the same testing procedure applies to meat for home consumption as to that for export?

Mr. B. Desmond: The Minister for Agriculture is specifically responsible for the use of antibiotics in animals and I do not propose to devolve that responsibility on the National Drugs Advisory Board. That board have a great deal to do in relation to drugs for human consumption.