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Veterinary Practice Drug Dispensary Management  and Odering

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How to Manage your Practice Dispensary

The practice dispensary is a key area within a veterinary clinic, and the importance of efficient stock control and rotation shouldn’t be underestimated. Historically, the running of the veterinary clinic pharmacy has often been assigned to a member of staff who has shown a particular interest in managing the stock; however, there is scope for this role to become the responsibility of staff members with further qualifications within that field.

Storing Medication

Any establishment involved in the prescribing and supplying of veterinary medicines must meet specific criteria set out by the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD). Veterinary practices must be registered as Veterinary Practice Premises (VPPs) with the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons (RCVS). The VMD can inspect them to ensure that they comply with the Veterinary Medicine Regulations (VMR) and the legal requirements.

All staff members responsible for receiving a stock order should actively check off the items on the delivery note to ensure that the quantities are accurate and to highlight any items that may be on backorder to ensure that any urgent order requests can be sourced from elsewhere if necessary.

The order in which medication is stored on the dispensary shelving is individual to each practice, however, it should be logical and organised in a way where the potential for errors is minimised. If medications are stored alphabetically, they should be arranged based on the generic formulation instead of the trade name to reduce the duplicate stock of the same drug. Alternatively, some practices will store their medications by category i.e. antibiotics, analgesia etc. or by composition for example injectables, oral, topical etc.

Stock rotation is vital to reduce wastage. Therefore medications with the shortest shelf life or expiry date should be stored at the front of the shelf and used first. Items should be stored in their original packaging, and any temperature-sensitive drugs must be stored accordingly, with temperature checks recorded daily.

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Stock Control

It is essential that the practice has a system in place to efficiently manage stock levels to supply commonly used medications whilst also avoiding excessive stock storage. Regular stock checks should take place to audit the levels of stock kept on the premises; this exercise will highlight any areas where ineffective stock management can be addressed. Adequate stock levels will reduce waste and out-of-date medications, which will, in turn, minimise unnecessary expenditure.

Many veterinary drug wholesalers offer automated systems which link to the Practice Management System (PMS). This enables the user to scan medication barcodes upon receipt of the order and allows for automatic reordering or notifications of low stock levels (determined by the practice). Provided the stock levels are well managed, this system allows for more efficient stock control; however, staff must appropriately adjust stock numbers within the PMS when prescribing, altering or refunding medications. 


Authorised veterinary medicines must be labelled with a Marketing Authorisation on the packaging and a distribution category, which determines what professionals are able to prescribe and supply the medication. The prescribing personnel may wish to delegate the task of handing medications over to a client, provided they are confident that their colleague is competent in doing so. When providing the client with the medication, they must:

  • Be satisfied that the user is competent to safely use the product and intends on using it as directed
  • Advise on safe administration of the product
  • Advise on any necessary warnings or contra-indications
  • Advise on any Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) required when handling and administering the product
  • Confirm that only the minimum quantity required for treatment is being provided

All dispensed medications should be correctly labelled, including all legal requirements, and a Summary of Product Characteristics (SPC) should be included where possible.

Clinical Governance

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The RCVS stipulates that all veterinary professionals and practices that are part of the Practice Standards Scheme (PSS) must ensure that they maintain high standards of competency and accountability by undertaking regular CPD and by conducting clinical audits. The practice dispensary should be included in this process, and Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) should be regularly reviewed and updated to reflect best practice.

It is vital that the practice adheres to the strict legal requirements relating to the storage of any controlled drugs, whereby all Schedule 2 (including some Schedule 3) drugs are kept in a secure cabinet to prevent unauthorised access. There should be clear SOPs indicating which staff members are permitted access to the drugs within this category and the means by which they are prescribed and dispensed. Additionally, there should be a protocol for monitoring and recording the stock levels of these medications, with considerations for minimising wastage during the process. Digital pocket scales can be used for this purpose, and regular stock checks should be carried out to aid in balancing any discrepancies.