Dismantled a criminal group dedicated to the fraudulent dispensing of veterinary drugs
Members of the Nature Protection Service Team (Eprona) of the Civil Guard of Albacete, within the framework of the “Berto” operation, have arrested five people, members of a criminal group dedicated to the distribution of veterinary medicines subject to medical prescription, for food-producing animals, regardless of any clinical and animal health criteria.
In addition, another 19 people have been investigated, whose actions would have facilitated the commission of the facts investigated, as alleged perpetrators of crimes against public health, false documents and intrusiveness.
The detainees, aged between 36 and 64 years old and residents of Albacete, acted from this capital and had the collaboration of the rest of the people under investigation, professionals who worked in various towns in the province of Albacete, as well as in the provinces of Ciudad Real, Cuenca, Toledo, Murcia and Alicante.
The investigations began when SEPRONA learned, through the Health Planning, Management and Inspection Service of the Provincial Health Delegation in Albacete, that a significant number of suspicious prescriptions had been detected, from the same veterinarian, related to a company dedicated to the sale of veterinary products.
The suspicions were based on the high number of prescriptions signed by this veterinarian, as well as the coincidence in the prescription dates and the volume of their recipients, since there were more than 400 from different provinces. Logistics warehouse in an Albacete industrial estate.
During the investigation it was found that the investigated company, in addition to the facilities where its headquarters were located, used an industrial warehouse that was not controlled by any of the competent administrations in the matter (livestock and health), where they carried out the storage of products that they later distributed.
The registration of the headquarters and the warehouse used by this company allowed access to documentation whose analysis provided essential data to establish the modus operandi.
The investigated company would have been dispensing veterinary medicines, subject to medical prescription, for food-producing animals, many of them antibiotics, regardless of any clinical or animal health criteria and without responding to a rational use of this type of medicine.
The company’s sales representatives had, among their work documentation, exact information on veterinary drugs and antibiotics, with notes on dosage, active ingredients, prioritization of treatment, waiting times for meat, milk and eggs, etc., necessary data for veterinary prescription.
This modus operandi was completed with the action of the detained veterinarian, whose function was to sign all the prescriptions that were presented to him and that came from treatments applied outside the knowledge of the veterinarians responsible for the farms, or from treatments that they refused to prescribe. some veterinarians, when requested. This physician received remuneration for these services that came from the payment per prescription made and discounts on the acquisition of products from the investigated company.
In addition, it was detected that, on some occasions at the request of the owners of the animals, the company ignored the mandatory veterinary action, de facto turning the workers of this company into the true prescribers of the medicines, which were subsequently validated by the veterinarians. farm managers; Therefore, those involved in these events have also been investigated in this operation.
The process was completed with the collaboration of two of the pharmacists who guaranteed the correct dispensing of this type of veterinary medicine, omitting the control functions that are legally assigned, thereby clearly hindering the inspection and control work of the various administrations. competent in the matter.
Important economic benefits
The process would have a purely economic purpose, since not only would the benefits of the commercial margins of the sales of ordinary medicines be obtained, but it would also allow this company to meet certain objectives and sales discounts established contractually with various pharmaceutical laboratories, and with access to the agreed discounts.
The analysis of all the analyzed documentation allowed to establish that the activity of this veterinary company extended through 13 provinces, even reaching localities of Barcelona, Badajoz or Navarra, although the bulk of it was centered on localities of this province and the bordering ones. such as Ciudad Real, Cuenca, Toledo, Murcia, Alicante and Valencia.
Among these were not only livestock farms, but also individuals, veterinary clinics, pharmacies, animal health product stores and other businesses in the sector.
The consequences of the irresponsible use of these drugs have led to the acceleration in the appearance of transfer mechanisms between bacteria, giving rise to multi-resistant bacteria or superbugs that are immune to almost all drugs and for which few therapeutic alternatives are available.
The aforementioned problems motivated the elaboration of strategies to combat antimicrobial resistance by international organizations such as the FAO, the WHO and the OIE, in addition to strategic plans for the fight in which both the European Union and the Government intervene. of Spain and the Autonomous Communities, through various operations, such as “PANGEA” or specific Plans such as the “Veterinary Drug Control Program” from which the first actions of the Health Planning, Management and Inspection Service in Albacete derived, where it was already clearly stated that the irregular dispensing of veterinary drugs was a serious public health problem.