The veterinary profession's role in addressing the opioid epidemic

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and its members are gravely concerned about the national opioid epidemic. As healthcare providers who administer and prescribe controlled substances, we recognize our responsibility in contributing to solutions for this crisis. Many unique aspects of the practice of veterinary medicine must be considered in the development of laws and regulations that govern the use of opioids and controlled substances in animal patients. The AVMA strongly recommends that veterinarians, legislators, state veterinary medical boards, and state pharmacy boards work together to create practical and effective solutions when considering opioid-related laws and regulations that impact the practice of veterinary medicine.

Veterinarians should be exempt from participation in prescription drug monitoring programs because routes of diversion of veterinary controlled substances are a minimal source regarding the misuse of opioids and because it is not in the purview of veterinarians to evaluate a client's prescription history in regard to controlled substances.

Mandates for veterinarians to participate in such programs are problematic, in part, because there is no effective veterinary prescription software with electronic medical record compatibility equivalent to that available in human healthcare (i.e. automatic PDMP reporting). Remediation of this problem would require funding, resulting in an increased financial burden on taxpayers and clients.

In regard to veterinarians, the AVMA supports the following objectives and efforts to address the national opioid epidemic:

  • Continuing education (CE) on judicious use, compliance, security, and prescribing of opioids and other controlled substances, with an emphasis on identifying and preventing human misuse and diversion
  • Options for reporting of suspected opioid and controlled substance diversion, with immunity from prosecution for the reporter
  • Continued research to determine the prevalence of veterinary drug diversion and to clarify the degree to which veterinary prescriptions impact the human opioid epidemic

Related resource

Opioid abuse and drug shortages