Prescription writing mandate is unnecessary for veterinarians
Whether it’s a routine visit to the veterinarian or an emergency, we all want our pets to receive the best veterinary care. Veterinarians understand that their clients must make financial decisions when planning and paying for those services and medications, which is exactly why we support policies that give our clients the flexibility to choose where they fill their prescriptions. However, some in Congress are working to pass a federal mandate that would require veterinarians to provide a written copy of every prescription for a companion animal, whether or not the client needs or even wants it. This will place undue regulatory and administrative burdens on veterinarians and small businesses.
We feel that this bill—the Fairness to Pet Owners Act (H.R. 3174/S. 1200)—is unnecessary because clients should already have the ability to fill a prescription at a pharmacy of their choice. Though not required by federal law, the AVMA’s Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics and its guide on Client Requests for Prescriptions encourage veterinarians to write a prescription in lieu of dispensing a medication when asked by a client, and a majority of states have similar laws or policies. In some cases, veterinary medications are only available through a veterinarian, negating the need for a written prescription. In other situations, the client might want to have the medication dispensed by their veterinarian. But if this bill were to pass, veterinarians would still be required to provide the written prescription, 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 taking care of their animal patients, not on paperwork.
Although some of the bill’s advocates claim that veterinarians are only interested in profiting from filling prescriptions in-house, we do not believe that is the case. A recent report issued by the Federal Trade Commission did not find evidence of veterinarians withholding written prescriptions from their clients and determined more information would be needed to understand the impact on consumers. Until we hear from them that a problem actually exists, it seems premature to consider such a sweeping federal mandate.
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 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. Next time you need a prescription—just ask!