AVMA works to quash legislation targeting veterinary prescription sales for dogs and cats

Bill could have 'major impact' on way veterinarians prescribe, dispense medications
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May 10, 2011
Washington, D.C. — New legislation targeting sales of prescription medications by veterinarians has drawn active opposition by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and other groups.

In fact, the association is mounting a lobby to defeat H.R. 1406 which was introduced by Rep. Jim Matheson (D-2nd, Utah). The California Veterinary Medical Association is joining the national association in actively opposing the proposed regulations.

While the legislation was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce, it's dubbed the Fairness to Pet Owners Act of 2011. AVMA contends it could have "a major impact on the way small animal veterinarians prescribe and dispense medications to pets."

The legislation calls for new rules regarding veterinary prescriptions by requiring veterinarians to offer written disclosure to pet owners about off-site pharmacy options for prescription dispensing.

Other requirements include:

• Veterinarians must write a prescription regardless of whether or not the hospital will dispense the medication.

• Verify a veterinary prescription electronically or by other means (applicable with state law);

• Prohibits a veterinarian from requiring payment for providing a copy of or verifying a prescription;

• Requires a client to sign a waiver or liability disclaimer should the veterinary prescription be inaccurately filled by an off-site pharmacy;

• Supply a client with a notice waiving or disclaiming a veterinarian’s liability for the accuracy of the veterinary prescriptions filled off-site.

"The AVMA has serious concerns regarding the onerous regulatory burdens a mandate like this would create. The AVMA believes there is no indication that there is a need for this mandate," the association states in response to the legislation's introduction.

Matheson counters, "This bill simply gives pet owners the same right to shop around for the best prices on the medications they buy for their pets as they have for products they buy for themselves." The legislation was modeled after the Contact Lens Consumers Act, Matheson says, with the intent of giving pet owners a copy of the written prescription so they can shop around.

"Having the written prescription would give consumers the ability to comparison shop. One study of 18 common pet medication found that on average consumers who purchase from prescribers pay a 248 percent markup over average wholsale prices," Matheson says.

AVMA argues the legislation is redundant and will "cause undue regulatory and administrative burdens on veterinary practices." Additionally, the association contends:

• H.R. 1406 encroaches on state jurisdiction; state pharmacy and veterinary practice laws which already govern compliance by veterinarians.

• Clients already have the flexibility to fill a prescription on-site or off-site at a pharmacy of their choice.

• Open communication between the client and veterinarian is part of the veterinarian-client-patient relationship.

• Decisions regarding a pet’s care and its welfare are collaborative between a veterinarian and the client.

• Veterinarians are uniquely educated and trained to make treatment decisions using sound clinical judgment, current medical information.