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