Back at it again: Congress introduces sweeping prescription mandate for veterinarians

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

DocWPrescription-300Here we go again—the so-called Fairness to Pet Owners Act (S. 1200) has once again been reintroduced. The bill language is exactly the same as last Congress’ and here is a refresher on why the AVMA remains opposed to such a mandate.

The bill requires veterinarians to provide clients with written prescriptions for their pets whether or not the client requests one. Though not required by federal law, the veterinary profession has already assumed a responsibility to provide clients with a copy of their pets’ prescriptions upon client request. In fact, the AVMA’s Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics urges veterinarians to honor a client’s request for a prescription when asked, and a majority of states have laws, policies or regulations in place that require compliance to this effect.

In addition, some veterinary medications are only available through a veterinarian, negating the need for a written prescription. But if the Fairness to Pet Owners Act is passed, veterinarians would still be required to provide a written prescription for the drug, take the piece of paper back when the client cannot find the medication at a pharmacy, and then dispense the medication. Writing the prescription and then taking the paper back would also hold true for the client who wishes to have their pet’s medication dispensed by their veterinary clinic. This creates an administrative burden for veterinarians and staff who should be spending their time and resources on their animal patients, not on paperwork.

At the AVMA, we have seen the number of visits to veterinarians decline in recent years and understand the financial burdens facing many of our clients. We all want what is best for our animal patients and our clients. That is why the AVMA is supportive of giving clients the flexibility to fill prescriptions at a pharmacy of their choice.

Nevertheless, we disagree with a sweeping federal mandate when we do not believe there is a problem that needs resolving. Are veterinarians not complying with the ethical guidelines laid out by the AVMA or their state veterinary boards? Someone somewhere seems to think so, but is that representative of an entire profession or an isolated incident? These are questions that the Federal Trade Commission is still trying to answer after conducting its investigation, which included an October 2012 workshop. Until we learn more, it is premature for Congress to once again introduce a bill that will create onerous new regulations for veterinarians.

We all want what is best for a pet’s health and well-being and for our clients, but we do not believe the Fairness to Pet Owners Act is necessary to accomplish these goals. We discourage our leaders in Congress from supporting this unnecessary bill.

In the coming weeks, AVMA’s councils, committees and Board of Directors will be reviewing the text of this legislation and the association will take a formal position; however, since the legislative language is the same as last Congress, we will be expressing our opposition to such a mandate in the meantime. We will post more information as soon as it is available.

To learn more about our opposition to previous versions of this bill in earlier Congresses, see our Web page. Also, be sure to sign up for the AVMA Congressional Advocacy Network, if you haven’t done so already, and we’ll send you an alert when the time is right to write your elected officials on this bill.

32 thoughts on “Back at it again: Congress introduces sweeping prescription mandate for veterinarians

  1. If I get my prescription filled at a pharmacy, I will get a copy of the CIS with some directions which is more than I got from my veterinarian who dispensed Rimadyl in a generic container with no information. The prescription label did not meet PA state veterinary code requirements for drug labeling. All drugs should be dispensed same as human drugs. This bill will help pet owners get the information veterinarians do not provide in their office prescribing and dispensing practices. My four year old lab died as a result of taking the medication Rimadyl.

  2. Can you say Online Pet pharmacies and Big Superstores (Walmart, Target, etc.) wrote this bill? Thats what we are talking about here. Who benefits from this?
    A client now has a prescription in hand already so they can go online or go to Walmart and get the veterinarian out of the picture. This is pathetic. Keep voting for Democrats and Big Government GOP RINOs they really care for the little guy.

  3. I just tried ordering in zonisamide for a client with a seizuring dog over the weekend to Walgrees who wanted to charge over $400 for 2 months worth (240 capsules) of a medication that I could get through my distributor a bottle of 100 for $14-15….All this act wants to do is create hassle and contempt between people…. So much for Walgreens wanting to do the $4.00 script for pet owners….

  4. Sounds to me like there must be someone behind pushing this legislation that would benefit financially from selling drugs to pet owners. Doubt they care so much about being fair to pet owners.

  5. Keep voting in people who believe in BIGGER government, MORE regulations, that government knows better than you and THIS is what you get folks. We need smaller government, fiscal responsibility and protection of individual rights (and no that’s not an Obama phone or health care). You vote for commies, you get this BS. I’m so sick of it. No wonder no one wants to open a practice, start a business, be an independent human physician, why would YOU?????????????

  6. If Congress wants to do this then they need to add in a rider that forces pharmacists to learn animal medications, doses and side affects. Yesterday I had an owner bring me a can of her prescription diet that an outside facility (online pharmacy) was filling. She needed hypoallergenic and was receiving Diabetic food instead (when she called them on it, the pharmacist told her it was the same thing!!!!). Also there are a couple other pharmacies around that are so bad, we tell our clients if they fill their prescription there, they are to call us after pick up so we can confirm they actually received the right medication, dosage, and labeled instructions. One time one of the pharmacies called us with a question on a prescription and during the phone call admitted that they have absolutely no animal training at all. That particular pharmacist I respect because she also admitted that she is uncomfortable filling pet prescriptions and she is nervous what her colleagues are doing.

    • I have one even better – diabetic dog 8 lbs. receiving 2U BID at the time. Human pharmacy filled Rx for NPH w/ directions for 20U BID !!!!!! Not sure if a typo or a pharmacist-derived perceived “correction.” Thank goodness in this case client continued administering correct dose and never read the bottle directions!

      I get calls from pharmacists telling me that a particular drug doesn’t come in this or that strength (eg. levothyroxine) because that strength is not used on humans. Or questioning the dose because “it’s 2 or 5 or whatever times the dose administered to humans” (I don’t prescribe to humans!). I had one clinet with a dog in critical condition at an emergency facility at the drugstore in the middle of the night trying to fill an appropriately-dosed fentanyl patch and the pharmacist cried in alarm to the already distraught client: “that dose will kill your dog!! it’s go into respiratory arrest!” Boy o boy….
      If the big drugstores want the pet drug revenue that have got to be trained in typical animal formulations and doses/dosages. At the very least they could invest in a veterinary formulary!!!

  7. Why not set up a system for sending our Email vote to congress, like the Sierra Club and Chesapeake Bay Foundation do?

      • This petition need to be shared on Facebook and spread on animal related pages. This is how I modified the first paragraph of the email since I am not a Veterinarian.

        “As frequent client of my dogs veterinarian, I am writing to voice my opposition to S. 1200, the so-called Fairness to Pet Owners Act. As a Veterinary client it should be MY CHOICE where I fill the prescription and my time and my Veterinarian’s time should not be wasted by additional Federal Legislation! ” This petition need to be shared on Facebook and spread on animal related pages.

  8. AS vets we can bitch all we want about this bill but we need to have OUR AVMA lobbyists get this off the table before it even makes a vote. Geez what do you think I pay my AVMA dues for? Get on it Ashley… please. :) Also vets need to contact their own US senators to tell them WHY this is a bad bill. We are the professionals. They need our advice. Also watch for a sister house bill to be presented and really hammer that bill.

    • Hi Ron-

      AVMA’s Governmental Relations Division will be working to oppose this bill once again this Congress. Our staff meets regularly with members of Congress to tell them why this bill is unnecessary. Feel free to join us in this effort by signing up for the AVMA Congressional Advocacy Network and sending letters to your members of Congress.


      Victoria Broehm, AVMA

  9. This bill was spearheaded by Wal-Mart lobbyists, per a friend on the US Senate. Will pharmacies have to let clients know in writing that another pharmacy may be cheaper? That is what this law will make us do; so much for adult clients taking any personal responsibility. The pharmacies want to grab some of the pet owners to increase sales of pool floats and granola bars and whatever else one walks past on the way to the pharmacy.

  10. In our community the pharmacy Rite Aid actually carries veterinary prescription products like Previcox, Vetoryl, Atopica just to name a few. That is just not right!!

  11. This is nothing but an other Thorne in the side of veterinarians only another record keeping issue. Less time for communication and time to examine the animals you are I trusted to help !!!! Enough big brother

  12. If I’m not mistaken, this is already law in California( must provide clients with option to purchase pharmaceuticals from your hospital or write them a prescription). If this is the case, what do California vets do? Fight for an appeal of the law

    • the proposed law would make you have to hand them a written prescription regardless of whether they purchase it from your hospital or not. reread the article. It is a problem because it is a waste of time and paper.

  13. My concern is pharmacists. Do they know veterinary patients as well as human ones? For instance, my understanding is that some liquid preparations of gabapentin contain xylitol. Will they know not to give that to dogs? What if another company decides to add xylitol to a medication? That needs to be addressed…are those who made this legislation aware of this?

    • I have read of numerous mistakes pharmacists have made, some of which have resulted in death or financial euthanasia.

      • A definite concern. I had a pharmacy employee dispense U-100 syringes for Lantus. When the client went back to tell them about the mix-up, she was told I didn’t know what I was talking about, they were just a different volume. That is scary for human medicine, too!

        • Lisa Wheppner-a U100 syringe is marked in 1unit = 0.1ml increments and has a needle designed for subQ use. Many on-line Veterinarian sites suggest using a U100 syringe for cats on Lantus because of the ease of measuring. What is your problem with them?

          • Thanks all for weighing in on a very important concern of many veterinarians, which is what to do when human pharmacists are incorrectly filling prescriptions for animal patients.

            We have some resources on our website here:

            I encourage you to check out this section on what to do about pharmacy complaints:

            Pharmacy Complaints
            AVMA members have reported problems with outside pharmacies, such as inappropriate substitution of medications, unauthorized alteration of prescriptions, and errors. Unlawful pharmacy practices and pharmacy errors should be reported to the state board of pharmacy.

            In addition, the AVMA requests that members also inform us of the problem by completing and submitting our complaint form. This information is kept confidential and is used only for our advocacy efforts. The AVMA’s form can also be sent to other organizations, namely the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine and individual state boards of veterinary medicine.

            The links to those resources can be found at the above address.

            Hope this helps.

            Victoria Broehm, AVMA

  14. This is one more example of big government wasting their time and our tax money to try to pass unnecessary legislature. Thank you AVMA for supporting vets in opposing this! It is ridiculous that they should be trying to micromanage us to the nth degree.

  15. If veterinarians are already issuing prescriptions to clients whenever a client asks for one then what is the problem with what the Federal government is doing?

    The fact is we aren’t. I speak a large number of veterinarians in our region and have heard many of them say that they won’t write a script to Company A or Company B. They share reasons for not issuing as that these companies will refill a script even though no refill is given or some other reason that seems similarly reasonable. From the client’s perspective this withholding of issuing a script appears to be mainly due to their veterinarian’s desire to prevent them from getting medications at a lower cost. Fact is, this is the motivation for more than a handful.

    The profession needs to address the legitimate concerns expressed by veterinarians by working with Congress to come up with very stiff penalties for not complying with the law on how scripts get refilled.

    The profession needs to continue to work hard to shift from supporting professional services at a discount while charging higher prices for medications than what the market is charging. The profession has some very large players competing with us in the sale of medications but has no competition from outside forces for veterinary services. This shift will make this matter a non-issue.

    • Forcing us to write a rx for every patient is a waste of our time, and prevents us from actually practicing medicine. Regarding specific pharmacies’ bad behavior such as giving refills when not authorized, we need to stand up and report these companies/pharmacists when we discover such behavior.

    • Any doctor has the right (and responsibility) to deny a prescription for a medication if they do not feel it is in the patient’s best interest to receive that medication. We are not “medication stores”, we are doctors. The reason why a prescription drug is a prescription drug in the first place, is that it is to be used under the direction of the prescribing doctor. If the examination results in the need for a drug, and the client requests a written Rx to price shop that drug, it is given, under the federal, professional, and state guidelines that are already in place. Sure vets try to educate clients about drug substitutions, risks of delaying treatment while they shop around, or informing them that the prices may or may not be so different elsewhere. After all, it is in the best interest of the doctor and the patient/client to be honest and open about all of it. However, I can see people assuming that they can demand the written Rx as a substitution for “going to the vet”. When someone calls and wants to have XYZ drug prescribed for their pet because they heard about it somewhere, or decided on their own that it would solve their pet’s problems, or even if they’ve been on it before and are seeking a refill, the answer can (and should be) NO. No written prescriptions without an evaluation of the problem at hand. That includes monitoring. Even if the Rx has been long term. If the condition that is being treated requires regular exams or labs, and the patient/client isn’t complying, then it is the ethical (and legal) responsibility of the doctor to insist on such before continuing to provide the medical treatment. Just try calling your own physician and demanding a written (or faxed, or called in) Rx for a medication. You’ll get a resounding NO. Schedule an office visit first. And look what has become of the MD side of things, office fees have skyrocketed, and this will likely happen on the DVM side too, to compensate for the loss of revenue from drug products, as well as to compensate for the additional costs of obtaining and processing all the written prescriptions required throughout a day. Then when people withhold medical care for their pet because they object to the higher office call fees, then who is that “fair” to? No one. And I object to the name of this bill in the first place. It clearly is designed to tug on the emotions and slant opinions toward whatever group is crying that something is “unfair”. Of course we all want to “be fair”, it should be renamed what it is: The Mandatory Prescription Bill.

      • DOCTOR Eve Ryan – I am a vet tech and my husband is a doctor too, and neither of us could have said it better! AVMA should use your statement in their campaign against this ridiculous bill. Well spoken!!

  16. This and the last Congress continues to do nothing or vote against giving veterans what is due, healthcare for US citizens, relief for most of the citizens that were hit by the collapse of the economy but not responsible for it, equal pay for women, doing something to clean up the environment, etc.. But they are more than eager to repeal Obamacare (56 times and counting), give redundant “religious freedom” already in the US Constitution and then some, and this redundant bill. All for the sake of saying that they are “doing something” no matter how redundant or bad for the environment or the common citizen.

  17. Prescriptions for people are issued to the supplying pharmacy electronically and a paper copy delivered with the drugs. If a vet does not want to provide an owner with at least the name and amount or dosage and proper instructions on administering, interactions, and contraindications you need a new vet.

  18. Why do you ban people from your Facebook page for telling the truth?