The U.S. House Veterinary Medicine Caucus, which consists of Reps. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) and Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), introduced legislation on April 12 to amend the Controlled Substances Act. House Resolution 1528, called the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act, would make it legal for veterinarians to transport and dispense medications for pain management, anesthesia and euthanasia as needed to care for patients at locations other than the address they’ve registered with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
“As my fellow veterinarians know all too well, in the practice of veterinary medicine we are often required to provide mobile or ambulatory services in the field to treat our animal patients in a wide variety of settings,” Schrader says in a release from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).
Federal law currently requires veterinarians to store and administer controlled substances only at DEA-registered locations. The AVMA says this is especially problematic for large animal veterinarians in rural areas, emergency responders, veterinarians translocating wildlife, veterinarians providing house calls and those required to conduct field research and disease control efforts outside brick-and-mortar structures.
Schrader and the AVMA have appealed to the DEA in the past to exempt veterinarians from the mobile restrictions placed on them by the Controlled Substances Act. Last year the situation became more urgent when a number of California veterinarians were notified by the agency that they were in violation of the law. Before this the DEA had rarely cited veterinarians for noncompliance. “It’s our charge and our mandate to enforce the Controlled Substance Act,” DEA spokesman Rusty Payne told dvm360 earlier this year. “Those in violation could receive scrutiny.” Payne added that it would take a legislative act to accommodate veterinarians.
Schrader says that’s ridiculous. “The Drug Enforcement Administration’s confusing interpretation of existing law makes little sense, is completely unreasonable, and hinders the ability of mobile and ambulatory veterinarians to properly care for their clients,” he says. “We’ve made good-faith attempts to work with the DEA to cut through the bureaucratic red tape and find a sensible solution, but our overtures have fallen on deaf ears. Therefore, we’re moving forward with what any reasonable person would interpret as a commonsense legislative solution to this bureaucratic nonsense.”
Yoho, Schrader’s conservative veterinary counterpart in the House and HR 1528 cosponsor, champions the idea of getting government out of the way of business. “This is another example of a well-intentioned regulation getting in the way of highly trained professionals trying to do their jobs efficiently,” Yoho says. “Veterinarians like us must be able to travel to treat animals, and in emergency cases, any veterinarian should be able to get to the animal--and the community--in need. The government should facilitate this important work and not allow it to be debilitated with bureaucracy.”
Mark Lutschaunig, VMD, director of the AVMA’s Governmental Relations Division, reiterates that the practice of veterinary medicine goes beyond the walls of the veterinary clinic. “To provide complete care for their animal patients, veterinarians must have the ability to transport the medications they need beyond their brick-and-mortar clinics,” Lutschanig says. “On behalf of the U.S. veterinary profession, we are pleased to see this legislation introduced and we encourage Congress to pass it quickly for the health and welfare of the nation’s animals, to safeguard public safety and to protect the nation’s food supply.”
HR 1528 has been referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Committee on the Judiciary. To weigh in on the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act, visit avma.org.