Yes, it has been an ongoing hot topic in the veterinary world! There is yet another bill in Congress that was introduced this summer that is awaiting review by the House Energy and Commerce Committee known as the Fairness to Pet Owners Act of 2015.
This bill would require that veterinarians provide a written prescription for all medications (other than those given in hospital or acute situations) regardless of whether the pet owner chooses to have them dispensed in the vet hospital or not. I see several issues with this bill (which by the way is NOT supported by the American Veterinary Medical Association.)
Why was this introduced in the first place? The purpose of this bill is, "To promote competition and help consumers save money by giving them the freedom to choose where they buy prescription pet medications, and for other purposes."
This bill states: A requirement that the prescriber of an animal drug shall, "Whether or not requested by the pet owner, provide to the pet owner, before offering to fill or dispensing a veterinary prescription, a copy of the veterinary prescription, including by electronic or other means."
As you must know by now, online pharmacies are ubiquitous. Despite providing very competitive and often lower cost medications at our clinic, pet owners perceive that it must be cheaper to buy these medications elsewhere. Here are my concerns about this bill as a practicing veterinarian:
- We ALREADY provide a written prescription to the client upon request. While I don't mind writing prescriptions, the client must search out where to purchase their medication. We already spend countless hours every year signing, faxing, and calling in prescriptions to local and online pharmacies.
- We don't have time to police these online pharmacies and I don't want to be held liable for them dispensing the wrong medication for which I wrote a prescription. Indeed, retail pharmacy mistakes are a real concern. This bill prohibits requiring clients to sign a waiver of liability should the veterinary prescription be filled inaccurately.
- I am also concerned about counterfeit medications. Just as in the human world, some online pharmacies are not reputable. I often wonder where huge pet online pharmacies are getting their brand name heartworm preventatives. If you talk to a drug representative from the companies that make the product, they don't sell to these online pharmacies. Either they are getting it directly from veterinarians, or they are getting it from an unreliable source, or possibly even overseas.
- Lets say that an owner wants to purchase a controlled substance like hydrocodone liquid for her coughing dog and she wants to fill it at our clinic. I will still have to write her a prescription for the medication. Then do I keep this prescription since she filled it with us, or does she take it with her and can now potentially fill it again elsewhere? There seems to be a lot of discrepancy with this bill. So she fills it with us, now I have just wasted time writing up a prescription that I am now going to take back. It seems that the proponents of this bill think that we have nothing better to do...like actually treating and helping pets.
- I believe that people have the right to purchase their prescriptions where they would like, and given the advertising by these large companies and stores that sell pet medication, pet owners already know that they can purchase many medications elsewhere. Those who would like a prescription ask for one. I do recommend to clients to look for FDA approval in their purchases of online prescriptions as well as avoiding medications that are sourced from overseas.
- Clients ask a lot of questions. I only know where the medications that I personally dispense come from. I cannot answer endless questions from clients regarding what pharmacy carries what medication and is it more or less to fill elsewhere, is it safe, do they carry the same strength, etc. Providing the script I can do, but beyond that it must be up to them to find the best place to fill their medication. Again, I am happy to provide a prescription but clients are already asking when they would like one, so this bill will just cause more of an unnecessary workload if it becomes mandatory.
The previous similar bill introduced in 2011 never went anywhere, so hopefully this one won't either. I think this bill will just cause more confusion and take up more time in the hospital that should be used for doing more important things. Keep it simple...write a script when the client asks and call it a day. What do you think as a future vet?
Would love to hear your comments!
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