There are bills up for consideration in Congress that would require veterinarians to give written prescriptions for pets that may be filled elsewhere, even if the clients don't ask. This is the most recent legislative attempt to pass in what is known as the Fairness to Pet Owners Act. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has opposed this bill and previous ones.
"We do not believe that this bill will improve patient care," reports Dr. Ashley Morgan, an AVMA assistant director in government relations, in an interview with Veterinary Information Network News Service. "Writing unnecessary prescriptions is a regulatory burden that wastes time and resources that veterinarians and their staff could be using to care for animal patients. If a client wants a prescription, all they have to do is ask."
However, advocates of the Fairness to Pet Owners Act maintain that many pet owners are unaware that they can shop around to fill prescriptions for their pets at places like Costco, Walmart and CVS and potentially save money than if they filled the prescriptions at the veterinary clinic. Leading this viewpoint is a group called Advocacy for Pets and Affordable Wellness, which represents a national coalition of pet owners and 45 retailers that fill pet prescriptions, including those with active lobbyists, including Walmart.
According to the American Pet Products Association, people spent more than $7.6 billion on pet medications in 2013, the most current year available for this information. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) completed a 121-page report on this issue in May 2017. The FTC concluded that pet owners should have freedom in choosing where to fill their pets' prescriptions. This agency also acknowledged that the market is more competitive than in the past, but needed improvement. Specifically, the FTC was critical of a longstanding policy by many large veterinary drug manufacturers to sell medications exclusively through veterinary practices.
In the report, FTC wrote, "Many veterinarians favor a distribution model in which they are the exclusive seller for most pet medications and oppose any changes that would make pet medications more readily available through other distribution channels. Some retailers believe that they could more effectively compete with veterinarians if portable prescriptions would be more widely available to consumers and if it were easier for them to obtain pet supplies of pet medications."
The debate continues...
By Sarah Zumhofe