Senators introduce new bill that places sweeping prescription mandate on veterinarians

By: Dr. Ashley Morgan, assistant director, Governmental Relations Division

At the AVMA, we are displeased to see Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduce a bill under the guise of saving consumers money on their pets’ medications.

The senators introduced a bill, called the Fairness to Pet Owners Act, in a press conference on Sunday, telling consumers that they will soon be able to have a choice on where they purchase their pets’ medications, making a trip to the vet seem more like “a walk in the park,” said Schumer. Unfortunately, this is not the whole story.

Consumers have had and continue to have a choice on where they fill their pets’ prescriptions. As part of their ethical obligation, veterinarians should already be honoring a client’s request for a written prescription when asked, and many state laws and regulations require it. In some instances, veterinary medications are only available through a veterinarian, negating the need for a written prescription.

The senators believe that veterinarians oppose this legislation because of a need to protect a revenue-generating business. However, the truth is that the vast majority of veterinarians are fulfilling clients’ requests for prescriptions when asked, and they focus on finding the most economical medications that will do the job. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission has been investigating consumer protection issues within the pet medications industry since 2012 and to date has not indicated wrongdoing by our nation’s animal doctors.

That said, it’s important to know that veterinarians support their small businesses in part through the sale of pet medications, which allows them to provide better healthcare services for their animal patients. As with human medicine, purchasing state-of-the-art medical equipment, updating exam rooms, hiring new staff, and running hospitals all comes with a price. When it comes to medications, veterinary clinics also have high overhead costs due to the need to keep the medications in stock and immediately available when needed. Many people assume that medications are universally more expensive from veterinarians, but this is not always the case; veterinarians are often able to match the prices offered by other pharmacies and offer the advantage of immediately dispensing medications to their clients, saving them an additional trip to the drugstore.

Our priority as veterinarians is promoting the good health of our nation’s pets and we cannot do that without building relationships with our clients to best determine their needs. We know that our clients face financial decisions and we support their right to choose what is best for their furry and feathered family members. In those situations, we encourage our clients to talk to us about their concerns, but we do not feel that a sweeping federal prescription writing mandate on veterinarians is necessary.

We hope that our leaders in Congress will stop this attack on veterinary small businesses. Let’s allow veterinarians to focus on working with their clients to determine the best care for their animal patients, not spending their time and resources fulfilling the burdensome requirements of this proposed federal mandate.

For more information on this legislation, see AVMA’s website or contact me at

19 thoughts on “Senators introduce new bill that places sweeping prescription mandate on veterinarians

  1. Elections have consequences. Perhaps some of my colleagues will realize the Democrats aren’t on your side.

    • Keep voting for liberal control freaks like Schumer, who never met a photo op he didn’t like, and Blumenthal who lied about serving in Vietnam, and this is what you get. My question is who are the big money people backing this legislation?

  2. The bottom line is this: If this legislation passes and the veterinarian loses the income from dispensing meds (with detriment to the patient as the pharmacists are not trained in animal dosages, uses, etc), your other veterinary fees will rise. Veterinarians have been historically able to offer low cost health care to our patients due to the wide base of income we have had. As our bases of income erode, the prices for the other services must rise. Otherwise, you will not have a veterinarian who can maintain their business. Just realize as veterinary consumers, your other costs will rise. So when this happens, complaints should be kept to yourselves.

  3. Another classic case of the government THINKING they know what is best on the consumers behalf and not fully understanding the situation or potential ramifications of their actions for the sake of a feel good bill for votes in an upcoming election.

  4. This is a horrible bill for a lot of reasons. Human pharmacists are not trained and not qualified in animal pharmacology and will not be able to necessarily pick up on incorrect dosages or potential drug interactions. This is the Wal-mart bill. Schumer obviously is owned and operated by wal-mart and other big corporate pharmacies and the name on the bill is about as honest as the affordable health care act- yeah right.

  5. As a veterinarian, I have no problem writing prescriptions for medications that I am familiar with to be filled at pharmacies that I trust. I believe people should have a choice, but I think that it is wasteful and cumbersome to have someone HAVE to fill out prescriptions for everything. Why not just require a sign at the front office stating that prescriptions will be gladly given upon request.

    People, this is not about making things better for the consumer. It is about big business getting richer.

  6. So far this year I have written about 500 prescriptions. Out of those I have had about 30% of my clients get the wrong medication or wrong dose because the pharmacist said the dose was too high. I had one pharmacist tell me that a drug I was actually looking at on the shelf in my own pharmacy didn’t exist. Another refused to fill a pet’s heart drug because it was “for people only”. Most human pharmacists don’t have a clue on what the dosages are, why they are prescribed, how they are used or what species should not take certain drugs. If the FDA and congress want to take away the human drugs out of veterinary hospitals, then veterinarians will have to use brand name drugs instead of generic and that will cost the consumer a lot more. If they want the human pharmacy to distribute them, then they need to have veterinary licensed pharmacist be on site to discuss all the side effects of the drugs, what it is really being used for (not all human drugs are used for the same reasons on animals), be able to explain How to medicate the pet, and be on hand to answer questions 24 hours a day. They can not change any prescription, no matter how odd it seems. Lastly, pharmacies must keep animal drugs and people drugs entirely separate which they don’t do now. I can see the outcry and lawsuits now for people killed by getting animal drugs instead of people drugs. I hope people will do the same for pets too. Pets can die just as quickly from getting certain people drugs.

  7. My personal experience , recently, was a vet who sold me two tubes of bute at an outrageous price. Now when you are an owner and your animal is in pain, you do not question. After using one tube, I actually looked at the product and it was already out of date. I looked up the company on line and found they were in trouble for having blue barrels of the bute in their factory from China….they company was cited and under investigation.

    I would never use Chinese drugs on my family, so why would I want to risk counterfeit or adulterated product on my dear horses????

    I stopped using the vet and requested a refund on the tube already out of date.

    Our MDs are no longer even allowed to dispense drugs to avoid any hint of conflict of interest. Why are Vets still allowed? My understanding is part of their objection is that they rely heavily on RX drugs to generate a profit….

    This is just like any other open market consumer product. A free market for all , to all . This is what is best for the consumer .

  8. As a NYS pharmacist, there is No way we should accept the responsibility of filling Rx’s for such a plethora of varieties of species, esp. Since the majority of Meds are not Meds indicated for human use! Either lobbyists are behind such a proposal, or these senators have ZERO clue about State and Fed Pharmacy Law! We would be the last checkpt before the drug is administered to the animal, and would be responsible for catching any prescribing errors. Granted, there are instances when the animal is prescribed a Drug indicated in human use, BUT we have No training in dosage, administration, pathology, and if the drug is being used appropriately for the specific animal with a specific treatment or disease. We would be 100% liable if there is a dispensing error. This would be catastrophic, and irresponsible for law makers to put this aspect of Animal medicine,and it’s responsibilities onto Pharmacists that are trained ONLY in human pathology and medication use.
    SENATORS, LEAVE ANIMAL MEDICINE TO THE VETERINARIANS! Even allowing these Online pet medication sites to fill Rx’s can be dangerous as well! Do we know that these drugs are authentic? We have seen many ‘Black market’ counterfeits that were made in other countries , and even passed thru customs and onto the wholesalers without immediate detection. In these HUMAN DRUG cases, the copies did not even contain the correct chemicals, and sometimes contained toxic elements, causing sickness or death in patients. It is a known fact, online purchasing of ANY Meds , animal or human, does not guarantee that they are in date, safe, or even REAL! Your proposals are unethical and downright dangerous to All involved! Do your homework before suggesting such ridiculous legislature!
    Brenda M, Luckow, RPh .( wife of Dr. Kenneth Luckow,DVM, sister-in-law of Dr. Scott Luckow, DVM, and niece of the late Senator Emmanuel Gold,Esq./Queens, NY) .

  9. My vet charged me $60 for 1000ml of Lactated Ringers, the IV drip line and a dozen 12ga needles. About a 600% markup. I should be able to get a prescription so I can buy fluids at a reasonable price.

    • Did your vet or one of the vets techs show you how to administer those fluids? If so how much time did it take out of their day? Did they charge you an appointment? Did you ask them some unrelated questions regarding your pet that took time from their work day? If you had a problem with those fluids did some one from the office call you back to address your concerns? Most people do not stop to consider these questions. If you go into your doctor just to ask them a question you will be charged an office visit , among other charges even though you may not see it because of your insurance. That cost we are charging is covering all the time we take to answer, explain, and be there if you have an issue. Not treatment is ever benign, even fluids can cause issues.

      • Everything that Korin mentioned is all so true. I am a technician and I work for a mobile veterinary service. While we only charge $18 for 1 liter LRS/line + $8-10 for needles, we do have a “SQ Fluid Demo” fee that is $45. There are so many details that need to be checked off for when teaching clients how to set up the fluids, let along actually give them. I usually have the client record on their phone for future reference due to all the fine details that we as veterinary professionals no longer think about. This entire process, along with questions and redoing parts of the demo, can take up to 20 minutes or more. This is not including the articles that I send and the future time that I spend talking with clients via phone or email. And of course don’t forget the time it takes for ALL of this information to be documented into the ‘client communication’ portion of the medical record.
        And this is only 1 of a number of clients that I might go through this with during the course of a day. The time spent really adds up to a 12-14 hour day. So while some things may appear to be overpriced, take a look at the quality of care that you and your pet are receiving & how much effort we put forth to provide that.
        No vet or technician ever does this purely for the money. If so, we would all be working with high end race horses.

        • Yes, veterinarians much charge to cover their overhead considering the massive taxes imposed on them especially in states represented by Schumer and Blumenthal.

    • Did you ASK your vet to write you a prescription so you could get them elsewhere? They probably would have, after they assured themselves that you knew how to administer them.

  10. My vet charges a fee to write a prescription. And they also have the markup on their in house medications. So, I can either pay them $35 for an antibiotic prescription (as an example) in house, or I can pay them a $15 prescription fee and fill the script at the pharmacy of my choice, where the medication is $4-$15. I would REALLY like to take a prescription to a pharmacy without being required to pay a ridiculous fee to do so.

    • As veterinarians we have one source of income, our practice. We cannot go out and offer you food, toys, or wine to offset the costs that drugs cost us. That is how grocery stores off set those costs of cheep drugs. Most people do not just go in and get their scripts when the go to a pharmacy. We also still have to pay $700+ dollars for DEA license so we can prescribe those drugs, plus whatever the state is charging us to practice medicine there. I would also check though if the drug they are offering you is cheaper. I recently had a situation where I had to use an expensive drug to treat a big dog. I contacted two retailers around us they were $40-50 dollars more expensive than what we were selling it at the clinic.

      The other factor rolling with this issue is human pharmacists are not trained in animal physiology. I have three very close friends who are pharmacists, and I know they did one semester tops on animals, if at all. Do you feel comfortable having them answer your questions if they know nothing? More importantly who will you be contacting if there is an issue? Probably not the pharmacist.

      • Write a prescription for doxycy1ine tablets or prednisolone acetate ophthalmic drops and see how fast clients want to purchase drugs at the clinic.