(WASHINGTON, D.C.) October 5, 2012—The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) defended the veterinary profession and spoke out against a proposed federal mandate on prescription writing during an Oct. 2 workshop hosted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) that looked at competition and consumer protection issues in the pet medication industry.
The workshop brought together a number of veterinary experts, including Dr. Douglas Aspros, president of the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA); Adrian Hochstadt , AVMA’s director of state legislative and regulatory affairs; Dr. Link Welborn, the chair of AVMA’s Veterinary Economics Steering Committee and a companion animal practitioner from Tampa, Fla.; Dr. Paul Pion, CEO of the Veterinary Information Network (VIN), Dr. Wendy Hauser, companion animal practitioner, Centennial, Colo.; and numerous economists, pet medication industry representatives, lawyers and academics. They spent the day evaluating consumer choice, price competition for pet medications and the prevention of adverse events.
Three intertwining panels discussed the distribution of pet medications and whether or not H.R. 1406, the proposed federal mandate on veterinary prescription writing, is necessary, considering current state regulations mandating prescription portability and the AVMA’s Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics, which state that veterinarians should provide clients with a written prescription when requested.
Despite an attempt by some panelists to compare veterinarians to car dealers, lawyers, and undertakers, the AVMA maintains that veterinarians are uniquely qualified to deliver professional guidance, support and education to pet owners when it comes to providing clients with prescriptions for their pets and assisting them in learning to properly administer products.
Dr. Aspros explained that veterinary clinics are just one of many supply channels for pharmaceuticals sold in the United States. Veterinarians primarily dispense drugs to ensure the health and welfare of their animal patients. The veterinarian’s focus and motivation are to serve clients by keeping their pets healthy, not peddle products or act based on incentives from drug companies.
“Essentially this is a solution without a problem,” said panelist Mark Cushing, founding partner of the Animal Policy Group and partner at Tonkon Torp LLP. “Veterinarians routinely provide prescriptions to their clients.”
Each panelist, regardless of their area of expertise, agreed that a majority of veterinarians already provide a prescription when requested and most veterinarians offer it automatically.
“Literally every visit to the veterinarian involves two different conversations,” said Dr. Welborn. “One about what is best for a pet’s health, and the other about ways in which a pet owner can afford necessary care. Veterinarians help pet-owning consumers spend their money wisely, every day.”
Veterinarians maintain that complying with mandatory regulations included in H.R. 1406 would prove burdensome to the average veterinary practice, which is generally a small business comprised of only one veterinarian and approximately six employees.
In addition, the proposed federal legislation leaves veterinarians open to potential ethical and legal liabilities, as well as a great deal of confusion. Currently 17 states require a veterinarian to provide prescriptions upon request. An additional 10 states have adopted into law or included in their regulations the AVMA Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics, which state that veterinarians should honor a client’s request for a prescription. Veterinarians worry that, should the law pass, those filling the prescriptions will not be trained in veterinary pharmacology and, as a result, mistakes will be made and adverse events will escalate, some possibly proving to be fatal.
“Keep in mind that veterinarians primarily dispense drugs to ensure the health and welfare of their animal patients,” said Dr. Aspros. “We would be wise to remember the dictum, ‘First, do no harm,’ as we go through the rest of the day.”
More than 500 comments about the pet medications industry have been submitted to the FTC. The comment period has been extended to November 1. The AVMA encourages all veterinarians to add their voices and experiences to those of their colleagues by commenting on the FTC site.