Missouri court rules animal drugs not subject to pharmacy act

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The Missouri Supreme Court recently ruled that the retail sale of veterinary prescription drugs is not subject to regulation by the Missouri Board of Pharmacy.

United Pharmacal Company of Missouri Inc. sought the declaratory judgment. For two decades, the feed retailer has sold veterinary prescription drugs to customers who have prescriptions from veterinarians.

The state pharmacy board investigated United Pharmacal in 1994, 1997, and 2000 for selling veterinary prescription drugs without a pharmacy license. The third investigation concluded that this conduct is the practice of pharmacy, and the board issued a warning letter to the retailer to cease and desist.

United Pharmacal responded by filing a legal petition. A circuit court also held that the sale of veterinary prescription drugs is within the regulatory powers of the pharmacy board. United Pharmacal appealed the decision to the state's supreme court.

Chief Justice Michael A. Wolff wrote in the opinion that the Missouri Pharmacy Practices Act is ambiguous on the subject of animal drugs. He wrote that the act does not expressly regulate animal drugs—unlike the state's Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and Comprehensive Drug Control Act.

Partially because United Pharmacal could face a criminal penalty, the court concluded that the state's pharmacy act does not cover the retail sale of veterinary prescription drugs.

Judge Laura Denvir Stith concurred in the result, but she wrote in a separate opinion that the threat of criminal penalty should not be a factor. Rather, the court could narrowly interpret the pharmacy act as not including animal drugs.