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March 15, 2007


 California clarifying when staff can administer controlled substances

Posted March 1, 2007

The California Veterinary Medical Board has proposed regulations to spell out veterinarians' authority in that state to delegate administration of controlled substances such as pain medication.

Traditionally, the board believed that existing regulations allowed veterinarians to delegate administration of controlled substances to registered veterinary technicians or unregistered assistants under either direct or indirect supervision. Indirect supervision means the veterinarian is not on location but has examined the animal and issued orders for treatment. Direct supervision means that the veterinarian has examined the animal and that the veterinarian or veterinary technician is available at the location.

In June 2006, the board's legal counsel concluded that the federal Controlled Substances Act permits veterinarians to delegate administration of controlled substances to staff only under immediate supervision—in the physical presence of the veterinarian—absent regulations to the contrary. According to the board's legal counsel, the act also constrains any such regulations from permitting veterinarians to delegate administration of controlled substances to unregistered assistants under indirect supervision.

The California board's reading of the act has not met with universal acceptance, though, and other state veterinary medical boards have not adopted the interpretation.

In October 2006, the California board adopted regulations that would allow veterinarians to delegate administration of controlled substances to RVTs under direct or indirect supervision and to lay staff under direct supervision. The board estimated then that the regulations would take six months to go through the regulatory process and become effective.

Additional information is available on the board's Web site at