Veterinary prescription mandate resurfaces with gusto

The alleged “Fairness to Pet Owners Act” reared its head again on July 24 when Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) reintroduced the bill in the U.S. House. Though it has been introduced and failed in Congress twice in the past, this time it may have legs.

The bill (H.R. 3174) will require veterinarians to provide clients with written prescriptions for their pets whether or not the client requests one. The AVMA has been strongly opposed to this bill, not because we believe that pet owners shouldn’t be able to choose where they get their pets’ prescriptions, but because they should already have this option. In fact, AVMA’s Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics states that if a client requests a copy of the prescription, the veterinarian should grant their request, and a majority of states have laws or policies requiring it.

When the Federal Trade Commission issued its report late this spring that examined the accessibility of veterinary drugs in the pet products industry, at no point did the agency find evidence that would suggest that veterinarians are not providing their clients with written prescriptions upon request. Essentially, this legislation, then, would be creating a solution to a problem that does not exist.

Despite the significant opposition to this bill, some in Congress have expressed interest in moving the bill. Should H.R. 3174 pass out of committee, it would be very difficult to keep it from moving forward and potentially getting floor time.

We do not believe that this bill will improve patient care. Writing unnecessary prescriptions is a regulatory burden that wastes time and resources that veterinarians and their staff could be using to care for animal patients. If a client wants a prescription, all they have to do is ask.

Tell your congressional leaders to put a stop to this bill and let veterinarians use common sense when it comes to providing pet care. Sign our action alert here. Learn more about our opposition to this bill on our Web page.

37 thoughts on “Veterinary prescription mandate resurfaces with gusto

  1. The other side of this debate is that pharmacists are not aware of the pharmaceutical needs of animals. I read a recent account of the pharmacist telling the dog’s owner that he was over dosing his dog on thyroid medicine. Until pharmacy school educates them about equine to avian medicine there will be a lot of mistakes that could be avoided by letting veterinarians handle animal medications. I don’t pretend to know about human drug dosages and don’t expect a pharmacist trained in human medicine to be knowledgeable about animal medicine. Is Sam’s Club going to purchase veterinary pharmaceutical texts? I doubt it.

  2. What happens when we dispense medication and write a prescription and the client goes to Walmart or some on-line pharmacy and buys it for less (possibly counterfeit if on-line) and comes back wanted to return the unused medication? It is against the law for us to take back medication which has left the office. So either we eat the loss or look horrible to the owners who don’t care what the law says. I already have client mad because in Florida, I can not legally fill another veterinarian’s prescription.

    • Dr. Hughes,
      It is our understanding of the legislation that the veterinarian would provide the written prescription at the time of prescribing. If the client wanted the medication dispensed by the prescribing veterinarian, the client would hand the written prescription back to the veterinarian. The client would leave the veterinarian’s office with either the written prescription or the dispensed medication, but not both.
      Best regards,

      • As a decades old client, I trust my vet completely – my animals get diagnosed and we leave the vet office with the appropriate medication. I do not have time to drop off an Rx then drive back (or wait) to pick it up. This is simply one more invasion by the government to get their fingers into something they should not be involved in.

        As far as Dr. James Hughes comment, I have PERSONALLY witnessed the situation he described and the client took out her aggravation on the vets staff. (Yes, people ARE that dumb!) Let vets do what they do: DIAGNOSE and DISPENSE to TREAT the animal properly!

  3. I have a question….. who is protecting the veterinarians and who is protecting our patients? Why do I feel that the AVMA does not have our best interests at heart??

  4. We already provide prescriptions if asked to,what good would it be to waste our time and efforts on an unneeded endeavor. Our jobs are already all time consuming. Please do not pass this legislation.

    • I fully agree with this. Many of my clients would not have me come to the house if they could run out and get a prescription filled. I do give all of them the option however, and then they want to know the prices of human pharmacies. I frankly tell them I don’t have that information. I really don’t have time to call around and check other places costs, I know what I need to fairly charge to make a profit. If I do have to write and prescription for every single client, my exam fee is automatically going up $10.00 for any exam requiring any medication. It is already frustrating to call a pharmacist and have to go through that ridiculous phone menu to leave a message on a prescription, or as just happened to be asked if I can hold for 2 minutes as the pharmacist is giving someone a flu injection. They are already overworked and can barely fill the orders they get. I have had 2 prescriptions filled incorrectly at the human pharmacy. I also have run into pharmacists not knowing how to dose thyroid medication and calling me to check the dosing then I get to take my time to educate them as well- all for free. They just are not aware of animals needs or differences.

  5. I remember that Pet Med was one of two companies “consulted” by the authors of the original bill. No veterinary resources were asked. I believe the other was one of the big box pharmacies. With most states already requiring this when asked and the only ones benefiting are the “sponsors” it seems to violate the “special legislation” clause preventing Congress from passing laws benefiting one or two individuals or companies.

  6. Many of the prescriptions that I routinely fill from hospital stock will cost more from the pharmacy than at my clinic! Plus the wait time at most pharmacies and the drive time there and back. This is a farther erosion of our profession and invasion by other professionals who are suffering from the poor economy. If our elected officials would do the correct thing and help the economy then people would be fully employed earning enough and wouldn’t care about a few cents to a few dollars more for their pets medicines. The poor economy, high taxes and loss wages and income is where the problem is but politicians are professional liars and convince the voting public it is something else. If I loose my pharmacy profit center I may have to close my clinic. I have already lost my large animal supply sales to tractor supply and my small animal vaccine and food to tractor supply and pet smart. The economy is so poor that no one can afford to have broken legs or pancreatitis treated now . So how can I earn enough to pay my 2 employees and myself. Recent graduates and young Veterinarians are in real trouble in the future. Why did the federal government fund the opening of 4 new veterinary schools in the last six years? Tuition continues to go up and demand for veterinarians by people who will pay them is going down rapidly. But wait till I close up and then people who call on me once every six years will say why I needed you yesterday! Can any one operate a daily business on customers that buy services once in a while, when they have money.

  7. Two weeks ago a client purchased clindamycin (ClindaCure) from our clinic for $12. The cat dramatically improved, but went down hill after the prescription was used up. Because it was after hours I called in a prescription to their local drugstore. The cat immediately began vomiting and reacting. The dosage was right, but the coloring and other ingredients apparently created a toxic response. When the client came in concerned, I determined the veterinary brand was superior. The cat immediately responded. Oh yes, the drugstore brand cost them $60!

  8. I am an ER vet and this bill is senseless. It would cause me to waste time writing scripts instead of treating my critical patients. Plus there is only one 24 hr pharmacy in the entire county I work in. You tell me someone is going to drive 30 min out of their way at 4am to get meds? The state of Michigan already has a law that if clients request a script we have to provide one. I have no problem writing scripts but I do have a problem with not being able to treat my patients properly because I have to write script after script and the clients may just decide to have us fill the meds in house. They need to look at the big picture.

  9. Our local Wal-Mart (and perhaps yours) is dispensing insulin to owners for their pets with no veterinary prescription. I have notified their pharmacist and our State Board of Pharmacy. After six months the practice continues. How many animals have been harmed? Who would know?

    • The actual law depends on the insulin that is being requested and what state you are in. Older insulins (Humulin R) do NOT require a prescription. Only the newer insulin analogues (Lantus, Homolog, Novalog) require a prescription to fill. Here’s a link to a website that has outlines the requirement for prescriptions for syringes and insulin by state.

      • Thanks for your reply Dr Levine. The website you cite appears to refer solely to human use. My current understanding is that in California insulin dispensed for veterinary use must have a prescription as it is extra/off label.

        • Rhode Island does not require a prescription for insulin other than Lantus etc. I did, however, write one because I wanted to be sure that the owner of a newly diagnosed diabetic dog purchased the correct insulin. With a script for NPH, the owner was given Regular. Thankfully the owner brought the vial in and we were able to head off any problems after the mistake was discovered. The pharmacist did not care and we were told we could take it up with the pharmacy board….

      • It’s not comforting to me that there is any state in which regular insulin can be purchased without physician or veterinary instructions associated. How many hypoglycemic seizures can we induce and all legally without a prescription?

  10. Really!! This is what we pay congress for? Frankly if anybody is worried about fairness in this country perhaps he should start by introducing a bill that protects the rights of human patients. Has anyone looked up lately the price of medications at pharmacies? It is outrageous that one pharmacy sells one medication (human drug) for $50 while another sells the same prescription for $500. I am all up for free market but I am also up for transparency and fairness. What pharmacies are doing to people is simply inhumane…. That is where he should focus his efforts, but he will not because he is being paid by the retail and pharmacy industry. To check more follow the link

  11. We already write prescriptions for our clients and authorize many from Internet pharmacies. Getting a written script is not a problem for our clients. However, there are many drugs that are specifically for animals and are not available from human pharmacies or the Internet pharmacies. Clients will find that trying to find a pharmacy to fill clavamox, liquid metronidazole,prozinc insulin, potassium bromide,and many schedule 2 controlled drugs will be a nightmare. Many veterinarians script out drugs that have to be compounded and we need to trust the compounding pharmacy to get it right. Good luck to clients getting their compounded prescription done correctly unless they know a pharmacy competent in compounding Veterinary specific medications. I consider this proposed legislation a needless and miss-guided effort to give clients choice. But instead it will require veterinarians write prescriptions that will not be filled properly with the pets suffering unfairly the results of this “Fairness to Pet Owners Act.”

  12. I am not a veterinarian. I am a concerned consumer who highly values the experience and expertise of my vets when it comes to caring for my family of giant-breed dogs. I have read the posted comments and appreciate the concerns voiced about this bill–from the unnecessary paperwork to the potential harm that can occur to the pets.

    I will join all of you in opposing this bill and ask my friends to do the same.

    • Thank you for your consideration. Many of those not in this industry listen to the name of the bill and figure it must be a good thing. I think the arrogance of companies to assume consumers & their legislators are so stupid as to support a bill because of the name is insulting. In choosing that name this group firmly states an antagonist and subjegative attitude toward us lowly, compassionate (or weak in their eyes) caregivers of animals. The name implys that veterinarians are unfair. This is corporate chronie-ism at its worst. These corporate giants think this will increase their sales but the consumers they aim to affect already max their dollars at those places on non-essentials; which is why they can’t afford $50 to prevent heart worms (but they don’t run out of treats). This legislation is poorly thought out, short sighted, and insulting in many ways.

  13. California law already requires a notice to all clients they are entitled to a written prescription and also requires a verbal notice when a dispensed prescription item is handed to the client. I have always provided a written prescription over the 36 years in a brick and mortar practice and do so now as a mobile vet. My experiences as a State Board inspector is that the law is mostly ignored. When working relief I was admonished by the practice owner when I did provide a written prescription that he had “.no financial interest in the pharmacy next door… and that perhaps I “.. didn’t notice his well stocked pharmacy for which he had invested large sums of money which needed to be paid for…” I was even present at 2 hospitals where the veterinarian absolutely refused to provide a prescription to clients. Another charges a fee in violation of state law. I have lots of negative experiences in my mobile practice of veterinarians misrepresenting dispensed items as to their nature and availability other than the practice. I am for the bill in fairness to out patients’ owners, our clients.

    • While I disagree with the actions you describe by other vets, my concerns with this is SO much larger. I almost lost a patient this year when an CVS pharmacy misfilled a prescription for metronidazole with methimazole. They tried to blame me (but we photocopy all written scripts). The dog almost died. The only reason we caught the mistake is because the owner USED to have a hyperthyroid cat and recognized the name and called to ask me why her dog was being given that medication. In addition, one of my clients today couldn’t have summed up some of the issues better. He said “You mean after I leave her the government expects me to drive another 25 minutes the wrong way from home to a pharmacy and wait an hour or so for them to fill it with 3 dogs in the car?????” I work in a very rural area. Adding driving time is simply not good for most of my clients. And finally, I worry that clients won’t get the medications filled in a timely fashion. Anyone who reads this think about how many times you have neglected to pick up your OWN meds from a pharmacy because the wait is too long, it’s inconvenient, they closed before you got there… the list goes on and on. I could continue – but this bill is a terrible idea. My clients have always had the right to get a prescription if they want one. But they need to have the right to get the drug from me if they want to as well.

    • Wal-Mart is behind this. I am sure their pharmacists know about veterinary medicine and our special use medications..L0L Who is better equipped to answer questions on veterinary medications? And if there is a problem with giving the meds, will the pharmacy help the client?? NO This will only cause clients paying higher fees for the time lost in seeing clients per day. When the government “helps” You should know to avoid this. This is not for the fairness to the animals. Only more money to the “on line” suppliers and Pharmacies who want a piece of the animal industry.

    • I’m sorry that your experience in the field has led you to believe that veterinarians are not ethical in the practice they engage and that the clients are somehow treated unfairly. You appear to describe a minority of individuals — inconsistent with the majority of veterinarians — who, likely, will not change their practice no matter what laws are passed. Yet, because of your generalization, you support a superfluous law that will only adversely affect the majority of us who remain moral and ethical in the business we conduct.

      Bottom line, those of us who object to the unnecessary provisions of the law do such because we would actually follow the law; and such an invasion into our practice of medicine will only serve to hamper the quality of medicine we provide our clients.

      After 36 years in practice, I would like to believe that you’ve somehow come to understand how our profession works — and how the ulterior motives of those outside our profession only serve to disrupt it.

    • What makes you think that if, as you claim, that Veterinarians in California who already ignore the State Law will comply any better with a Federal Law? I have only ever heard of one Veterinarian in my 25 years of practice who refused to write a prescription and, thankfully, he is now retired. I live in a town of approx. 30 Vet Hospitals and, to the best of my knowledge, every single one of them will write a prescription upon request and no one I know personally charges a fee to write an Rx. However, given the time that I personally have put in trying to educate our local pharmacies on the pet’s medications, I sometimes feel like I should be compensated. Adding up the last year alone of dealing with Pharmacists I have probably put in 30 to 40 hours of free time. Further, my experience with most of the online pharmacies has been extremely negative. They are rude, they demand immediate responses, they tie up our phones, they fax multiple requests for the same drug, same pet, same client every hour until they get a response, etc. God forbid we ever put them on hold to go look up something because 99 out of a 100 times after you spend time researching their question, you come back to find that they have hung up on you. I’m sorry that your personal experiences working as a relief and a mobile Vet after 36 years in practice has not been positive for you.

    • I would suggest that the answer to the situation you are describing (veterinarians refusing to write scripts) is not new legislation, but enforcement of the laws currently there. If the law isn’t being followed or enforced what makes you think a new law will change that?

  14. Thank you for adding the link with the appropriate congressmen/women. Helps a lot. Time is certainly a factor. Also, not factored into the equation is when we can get a better price for our patients than the big boxes/on-line folks. We are here to care for them if there is an adverse reaction and we can provide that service immediately. Adding restrictions adds costs to the clients. Where is the fairness in that??

  15. This is ridiculous! If clients request a prescription, we write one for them. We have had recent experiences with pharmacists changing prescriptions we have given to clients for their pets, without calling to check with us first. They have questioned our dosages, and our choice of medication. In one instance, it resulted in the patients death. Pharmacists are not trained in veterinary pharmacology, and seem to have little respect for a veterinarian’s education and multispecies training.

  16. It would be useful to have a link to each state’s congressmen/women right here. Can that be done?

    • Hi Greg,

      You can easily look up your representative’s in Washington through AVMA’s Government Action Center:

      All you have to do is enter your zipcode and it will bring up your elected officials so you can see where they stand on AVMA’s issues.You can also easily send them a message about this bill through the website.

  17. This is obviously being pushed by people unfamiliar with veterinary medicine. Seriously,why waste time and PAPER writing this bill when clients can ask for prescriptions from their veterinarians all ready. USE tax payers money more appropriately with bills that matter.

    • I believe this bill IS being pushed by big corporate interests that are very familiar with our veterinary drug market. Like Pet Med express and many other online veterinary drug suppliers. My bigger question is how liable are we if the pet owner purchases their prescription drug online and it harms their pet. Are we culpable in the harm of their pet because we wrote the script?

  18. Veterinarians already supply our clients with written prescriptions at their request. Do not burden us with this extra, time consuming and completely unnecessary step!