House bill requiring mandatory veterinary prescriptions garners AVMA opposition

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The AVMA has come out against a federal proposal mandating that veterinarians provide clients with written prescriptions regardless of whether they dispense those medications.

Utah Rep. Jim Matheson introduced the Fairness to Pet Owners Act of 2011 (H.R. 1406) this April to purportedly save consumers money by increasing their options over where they purchase drugs for their companion animals.

"This bill simply gives pet owners the same right to shop around for the best prices on the medications they buy for their pets as they have for products they buy for themselves," Matheson explained.

Along with the written prescription, H.R. 1406 would require veterinarians to provide clients with a written disclosure explaining they may fill prescriptions at the veterinary clinic or at an off-site pharmacy. Veterinarians would also be compelled to verify a prescription electronically or by other means consistent with applicable state law.

In addition, veterinarians would be prohibited from requiring payment in addition to, or as part of, the fee for an examination and evaluation as a condition of providing a copy of or verifying a prescription.

Matheson modeled H.R. 1406 after the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act passed in 2003, which gave contact lens wearers the right to a copy of their prescription. "The competition that legislation spurred has helped Americans save as much as 20 percent on the cost of those lenses," he said.

The AVMA believes H.R. 1406 is unnecessary, however, and would create undue regulatory and administrative burdens on veterinary practices. Clients already have the flexibility to fill a prescription on-site or off-site at a pharmacy of their choice, the Association notes, adding that the Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics state veterinarians should honor client requests for written prescriptions.

Other reasons the AVMA cited for its opposition are that the bill's requirements would interfere with the collaboration between a veterinarian and client regarding decisions for a pet's care and its welfare, and that they discount veterinarians' education and training to make treatment recommendations based on sound clinical judgment and current medical information.

The AVMA Legislative Advisory Committee recommended H.R. 1406 receive a designation of "active pursuit of defeat" in the AVMA legislative agenda for the current congressional session. The proposal was approved by the AVMA Board of Governors, since the Executive Board was not in session.

At press time in early May, H.R. 1406 was under review by the House Subcommittee on Health and had only one co-sponsor.

For more information about the Fairness to Pet Owners Act and the rest of the AVMA 111th Congress Legislative Agenda, click on "Congressional Activities" here.