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.

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.
  • Exemption of veterinarians from accessing private health information and prescription data on a person prior to prescribing or dispensing controlled substances for an animal.
    • Veterinarians are not trained to evaluate the appropriateness of a human prescription and are not trained in the privacy practices surrounding human medical information.
  • Options for reporting of suspected opioid and controlled substance drug shoppers and/or diversion, with immunity from prosecution for the reporter.
  • Exemption of veterinarians from mandatory electronic prescribing for controlled substances due to the lack of veterinary electronic medical record compatibility with electronic prescription programs. Remediation of this problem would require funding, resulting in an increased financial burden to taxpayers and clients.
  • Research to determine the prevalence of veterinary drug shoppers and to clarify the degree to which veterinary prescriptions impact the human opioid epidemic.
  • If participation in a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP) is mandated:
    • Develop software that captures accurate data from veterinary opioid prescriptions to benefit human health.
    • Until veterinarians have effective prescription software equivalent to human healthcare (i.e. automatic PDMP reporting), regulations should be drafted with consideration for the burden of compliance.

Related resource

Opioid abuse and drug shortages