Prescription mandates: new bill, same problems

Protecting, promoting and advancing veterinary medicineFor several consecutive congressional sessions, the AVMA has led the charge to defeat legislation that would require veterinarians to provide written copies of all prescriptions for companion animals – even if not requested or wanted by the client. The misleadingly named “Fairness to Pet Owners Act” has had several sponsors over the years and has been introduced once again in both the House and Senate. Despite some language changes, the effect would be the same as in years past: this bill would implement burdensome and unnecessary regulations on veterinarians, and create unnecessary inconvenience and complication for clients.

The House version of the bill – H.R. 5472, introduced by U.S. Reps. Chris Collins (D-N.Y.) and Matt Cartwright (R-Pa.) – would direct the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to create regulations requiring veterinarians to provide prescriptions without a client requesting one, even when the client wants to obtain the prescribed medication from the veterinarian. Details of the regulations would be left to the FTC, leaving room for more onerous requirements.

The companion bill in the Senate – S. 2651, sponsored by U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) – is somewhat different, retaining the same language used in previous years.

In either form, the legislation is simply unnecessary. Prescription writing is effectively governed by laws and regulations at the state level, and the AVMA’s Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics require veterinarians to provide prescriptions upon a client’s request. The AVMA policy on Client Requests for Prescriptions also urges veterinarians to write a prescription in lieu of dispensing a medication when requested by the client. Further, the FTC has found that these products are widely available to consumers in retail outlets, both brick-and-mortar and online.

Prescription writing mandates are an overreach of federal government that interferes with the practice of veterinary medicine. Many veterinary clients already request to have their prescriptions filled elsewhere, and can do so. Veterinarians should be able to focus on patients and clients – not arbitrary red tape. Prescription writing regulations would interfere with providing optimal patient care, cause undue administrative burdens on small business veterinary practices, and potentially raise costs for veterinary care.

Because of these concerns, AVMA will continue aggressively opposing this bill. If you’re concerned about prescription writing mandates, you can use our online tools to send a pre-written, editable letter to your lawmakers in opposition to the legislation.

12 thoughts on “Prescription mandates: new bill, same problems

  1. The proposed bills ACCOMPLISH NOTHING for the pet owning clients. Clients are always welcome to ask for prescriptions for medications, on paper or called-in to the pharmacy of their choice.

    The proposed bills DO accomplish the following:
    – Increase the time needed for each appointment. This will increase the COST of veterinary care, which will result in fewer animals receiving veterinary care as owners in the lower half of the pet owning demographic seek less medical care for their pets. More animals will do without care.
    – WASTE paper and printer ink, as most of those paper prescriptions generated each day will go from the printer to the paper recycling box (we hope) or the trash (and then the landfill).
    – Cause yet more FRUSTRATION with government. Why do we need more such frustration?

    These bills are the work of legislators, who know nothing of the workings of a veterinary hospital, trying to manipulate regulations for the benefit of various big companies, most likely for campaign contributions or other less visible payments to the legislators. These are bills looking for a reason to exist.

    I would urge those legislators to go back to their desks and try to come up with substantive solutions to the many,many real problems that people in our country face every day. School shootings; wars; poverty; egregious educational deficiencies, to name just a few. Legislators – do some real work.

  2. This bill is onerous and burdensome for veterinarians. It will waste paper and add additional red tape to a very simple process. A client is always given a written prescription when asked, but mandating this is adding more red tape to already busy practitioners and small business owners. Please vote no on this and similar unnecessary legislation.

  3. This would not be beneficial to the pet owners, it does not gain them anything. It would be a burden to veterinarians especially small practices.

  4. Veterinarians of all the medical health professionals are often more considerate of the clients ability to pay for services than most others. We, as a group, have been often chastised for not offering the best medical care for our patients in light of our concerns for a clients ability to afford said services. We often modify our treatment plans to be accommodating.

    Large retailers and suppliers of veterinary prescriptions are part of the free market and what makes our country great! Clients have the ability to chose where to buy their supplies and veterinarians are encouraged to keep prices reasonable and in line with what the market supports. What makes this proposed legislation unfair is that it is encouraging the clients of veterinary practices to go to other sources to supply their pets prescription needs and imposing additional uncompensated work and time on veterinarians to write prescriptions. This would be similar to requiring auto mechanics to supply lists of needed parts to repair a clients automobile after determining the source of the mechanical trouble. This would encourage folks to shop around for the best price. Auto mechanic shops would then be forced to raise fees for services to offset the loss of revenue generated from parts.

    At my veterinary clinic I am always in the process of keeping fees reasonable and with additional rebates or promotions from the drug companies, we can often charge less than online stores. In spite of this, we still have clients who chose to order their prescriptions online. It is their right to chose where to spend their money. It requires additional time on my part to authorize prescription requests, but I authorize them when requested. This proposed legislation seems to only be unfair to veterinarians, and providing nothing that makes it more fair for clients of veterinarians. They already have the right to fill their prescription elsewhere, there is not a need to encourage revenue to leave the local communities and go to large online retailers.

  5. There is no reason for this burdensome legislation. Either you have to directly charge for the extra service (face the ire of the client) or raise other fees. Dr. Kat

  6. I don’t understand the force behind this bill. All the veterinarians that I have talked to will write prescriptions for clients who request them without charge. If we have to write a prescription for EVERYTHING we dispense, whether the client ultimately gets it from us or a pharmacy there will be an additional time burden placed on the practioner that most of us cannot afford. We have little enough time to practice and communicate with clients as it is.

    The other concern is the lack of education of most pharmacists about veterinary patients, prescribing differences, toxicology to name a few. If we have to write scripts for clients then we have to be able to trust that they are going to get filled properly and that already is problematic.

    Again, this isn’t a bill that is truly in the interest of pet owners. And the spirit of the law is already being met by veterinarians. I do not support this bill.

  7. If this bill should ever pass, then I will be forced to raise my office visit charge to cover the time of writing the prescription(s) and to cover the lost revenue that is generated when we sell a prescription through my office. My policy has always been to price match – within reason- for any online prescription, since once the client has become accustomed to online prescriptions they will probably not return to my office for refills. We all know that prescription revenue helps subsidize the real cost of an office exam. In the long run the pet owners (AKA “fur baby parents”), will end up paying more for pet care. Veterinary offices are businesses! We have to make a profit or else the profession cannot afford to pay for new equipment, staff training, student loans, business loans and all of the other costs involved with running a veterinary office. After 20 years of being a small animal veterinarian in private practice, I am considering selling my practice to a corporation and not having to worry about all the governmental bureaucratic BS. I am afraid that the times are changing. Maybe we should start charging for EVERYTHING like the “real doctors” do.
    Write the client their prescription and send them on their way. Big box stores that are pushing these bills have more time and money to keep after this bill, so I know that it will pass eventually. The only way we will be able to survive is to charge for our knowledge, time and skills.

    • I am fully aboard with Adam.. I am between these “Low cost” Vaccine clinics.. even the ASPCA offers “community” free vaccinations. Besides the “Free Spay” Mobil Vans. Between the ever increasing real estate taxes, electric, and all the other financial responsibilities to keep the doors of my animal hospital open.. while trying to keep the costs down to the clientele..Then to see last summer a State Representative Chuck Schumer in Central Park, make it sound that the veterinarians were ripping off the clientele… We must teach the future veterinarians to respect their profession and not to sell the profession cheap. The corporations have found a soft target.. unfortunately those of us who are looking to slow down and to enjoy some benefits for all the 7 day weeks and endless nites may very well be forced to sell to the corporations.. Who wants to but a hospital with all the scary future predictions!?

  8. Of course this bill is insanely stupid. We all know that. The rationale I heard given for it by one lawmaker was that some clients were “afraid” to ask their vet for a written Rx in lieu of the pills they were being handed. I say if the client is that afraid of the vet they need a new vet. But everyone who is commenting here need to write their CONGRESSPEOPLE. This is a tiny minor issue for Congress in light of current events and easy for a Member to ignore or pass to an aide. Who doesn’t want to be fair to Pet Owners? Easy to vote yea on that. They need to hear from US individually about the truly ridiculous nature of this bill and how it is SO Unneccesary— how we all write zillions of Rx already and most people
    Actually don’t want another trip to a pharmacy they want the meds then and there so writing all those Rx cuts into my time with clients OR causes me to raise office call prices! So fair to pet owners! Congress should hear not just from the AvMA which they know is lobbying and easier to ignore.

  9. This bill would be problematic for veterinarians. What happens when we provide an owner with a script for phenobarbital and they take it to the pharmacist but find out it’s more expensive….then want it filled at our clinic. They don’t have the script because they conveniently misplaced it. It’s a controlled drug. Do we deny our patient the meds? We have no way of knowing whether they filled it or not since there’s no record of it or a way to track. Could they be using it themselves? If I have to provide a script every time and they then hand it back into me…that’s just a waste of my time with paperwork. I can see more patients instead of the time taken for each script. We write scripts already when asked so why kill more trees.

  10. This bill would not be beneficial to the pet owning public and would be burdensome to veterinarians.

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