Vet board calls for stricter drug storage

The Veterinary Surgeons Board of South Australia has called for stricter regulations around the storage of a drug used to euthanise animals, after the deaths of a qualified veterinarian and a student.

Deputy coroner Anthony Schapel is investigating the deaths of Erin Murray and Amy Patterson, who died by suicide from pentobarbital toxicity in 2014 and 2015.

The board's presiding member, John Strachan, told the inquest on Tuesday the board wants the drug to be stored more securely.

Pentobarbital, in its liquid form, is classed as a schedule four drug, but Mr Strachan said the board would support its elevation to schedule eight.

"We believe it should be (raised) to schedule eight so that it's more carefully monitored," he told reporters outside court.

Schedule eight drugs must be stored in a safe and kept securely locked away when the drugs are not in immediate use.

The court heard a Queensland coroner had recommended in 2017 that the Therapeutic Goods Administration upschedule pentobarbital to schedule eight, but that finding had not been acted upon.

In response to suggestions the drug has remained at schedule four to avoid expense, Mr Strachan said it would cost about $500 to install an appropriate safe.

He said the board has more authority over veterinary hospitals than it does clinics, and could not conduct an investigation into the two deaths.

"We don't have the power to do that as we do in relation to the hospitals," he said.

Mr Strachan called for the law to be changed to allow the board the same authority over clinics as it has over hospitals.

"We don't have enough power over clinics to be able to deal with the matters in the way they should be," he said.

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