Fairness to Pet Owner’s Act: Part 3…The Dangers
In this series of posts, we’ve been discussing the “Fairness to Pet Owners Act” which has been introduced in Congress and which our own Senator Schumer has promised to introduce in the Senate. This act would require a veterinarian to hand a client a written prescription for every medication prescribed for a patient. The client could then elect to have that filled at the same veterinary practice or any other outlet. In my last post we learned why veterinary practices, unlike human practices, dispense animal medications directly. While there used to be a financial motivation behind this, the paradigm is shifting. We continue to directly dispense medications out of a concern for the safety and health of your animals. If this act is passed there are some significant dangers and inconveniences that could result which would actually be unfair to pet owners and their pets. Here are some of the potential dangers I feel may be associated with this act:
- This law isn’t necessary in New York. Under present New York State Law a veterinarian is required to provide a written prescription for medication upon a client’s request. We don’t need another intrusive government law telling us to do this every time. We already will do it any time you ask. You can simply ask for a written prescription if you’d like one.
- Pharmacists aren’t required to receive any special training on animal medications. Your veterinarian is the most knowledgeable person regarding the proper use of medications for your animals. Every veterinarian has received special training in any drug’s effects, side effects and possible interactions between medications. Only your veterinarian is aware of the proper drug dosing for your particular animal. Your pharmacist doesn’t know any of this. Pharmacists are required to counsel patients on the medications dispensed. Most get away with providing a white paper with information about a drug and don’t ever actually talk to you about the effects, side effects and possible interactions with your medications. Currently, pharmacies have none of these counseling sheets available for animals. If you are handed one, the information contained in it pertains to people and not animals. Veterinarians know of many circumstances where doses have been changed and improper medications have been dispensed because a pharmacist wasn’t aware of the special needs of animals. There are a few organizations providing specialized coursework for pharmacists to learn more about animal meds. Look for certification from the American College of Veterinary Pharmacists to determine if your pharmacy has become proficient in animal medications. If it hasn’t there could be some dangerous outcomes for our animals. This law needs to include mandatory veterinary drug specific training for all pharmacists and staff in order to be safe. Think that will happen?
- It will slow down your veterinary visit. Think about it. If we have to provide a written prescription for every medication which you would need to then take to our pharmacy counter or to an outside pharmacy to be filled it’s going to take time to do all this. We all know how valuable time is in our time-crunched lives these days. You may be used to your physician transmitting a prescription electronically to your pharmacy. These programs are expensive and often underwritten by third parties. The associated costs are prohibitive for veterinary practices. Electronic prescribing has not yet come to our profession. This means we would have to continue to generate paper prescriptions for every single medication.
- It could delay your starting treatment for your pet. What happens if you take your prescription to a pharmacy that doesn’t have that particular animal medication on hand? It will need to order the drug delaying treatment by a period of time. If we are able to dispense medication, you can begin treatment for your animal right away. In my practice we often administer the first dose right there in the exam room. This law would need to mandate that a pharmacy stock every animal medication in order to avoid delays. Think this will actually happen?
- Veterinarians are already fair to pet owners. If you don’t agree with this, think about finding a new veterinarian.
These are some very serious concerns regarding the “Fairness to Pet Owners Act”. I hope you will help me in letting Senator Schumer know that this act is not needed. If he does proceed with his sponsorship, this act should include provisions for training of pharmacists and staff and mandate that a pharmacy maintain adequate inventory of animal medications. In my next post I’ll show you how you can save on prescriptions for your animals.