There has been a lot of speculation about why the AVMA and many of its member veterinarians oppose the Fairness to Pet Owners Act (H.R. 4023). Here are the facts.
This bill would require 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 if the client requested one. In fact, the AVMA’s Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics urges veterinarians to honor a client’s request for a prescription when asked, and many states have laws, policies or regulations in place that require compliance to this effect.
On the flip side of this equation, 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, however, veterinarians would still be required to provide the written prescription for a drug only available from a veterinarian, take the piece of paper back and then dispense the medication. 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 the veterinarian declining 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.
However, 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? Some of Congressman Jim Matheson’s (D-Utah) constituents, the bill’s sponsor, seem to think so, but is that representative of an entire profession or an isolated incident?
The Federal Trade Commission sought to answer that question during its October 2012 workshop and is currently examining the competition and consumer protection issues within the pet medications industry. Until we learn more, we believe it is premature for Congress to create new regulations that will place undue burdens on veterinarians. Congressman Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), a veterinarian, agrees:
“I think it would have been useful to wait for the FTC’s findings before introducing legislation,” Schrader said in a recent article with DVM360. “My principle concern has always been that this bill could lead to violations of doctor-patient confidentiality and allow uninformed retailers to make decisions about medication protocols without the patient or the doctor’s consent.”
While the AVMA is aware of potential problems that might arise if the owner chooses to fill veterinary prescriptions at pharmacies that dispense human drugs and/or online pharmacies, we do not believe these necessarily constitute a reason to deny a client the written prescription. The AVMA has been working with the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy and other pharmacy organizations to address these challenges and emphasize the need for pharmacists to establish and maintain a working rapport with veterinarians when filling pet medications.
At the end of the day, 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 encourage congressional leaders to think twice before enacting a solution in search of a problem.
Learn more about the bill in AVMA’s issue brief.