By: Dr. Ashley Morgan, assistant director, Governmental Relations Division
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.