Prescriptions for Pet Meds

Making the cost of pet care easier to swallow
By Shea Cox DVM, CVPP, CHPV, August 2012, Updated June 2021
frenchie dog at veterinarian

In many veterinary practices, dispensing of prescription drugs, nutritional supplements and parasite prevention makes up 17 percent to 20 percent of practice revenue. Historically, selling these products has been a relatively passive revenue source for veterinary practices. In the past, there has been little competition for products, and consumers did not routinely “shop around” for medications.  However, that landscape is rapidly changing.

There is new legislation that is currently being discussed in congress that, if passed, will mandate that veterinarians provide a written prescription, even if the prescription is filled on the premise. This legislation is called the “Fairness to Pet Owners Act of 2011,” or H.R. 1406, which will allow pet owners to go to their neighborhood pharmacy for prescriptions, or to have them filled online. The legislation was modeled after the Contact Lens Consumers Act, with the intent of giving pet owners a copy of the written prescription so they can shop around.

The legislation calls for new rules regarding veterinary prescriptions that include:

• Requires veterinarians to offer written disclosures about off-site pharmacy options for prescription dispensing;
• Requires veterinarians to write a prescription regardless of whether or not the hospital will dispense the medication;
• Verify a veterinary prescription electronically or by other means;
• Prohibits a veterinarian from requiring payment for providing a copy of or verifying a prescription;
• Requires a client to sign a waiver or liability disclaimer should the veterinary prescription be inaccurately filled by an off-site pharmacy;
• Supply a client with a notice waiving or disclaiming a veterinarian’s liability for the accuracy of the veterinary prescriptions filled off-site.

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Many veterinarians and medical associations feel this idea is a tough pill to swallow and here’s why:

• The American Veterinary Association believes this law is redundant and will cause undue regulatory and administrative burdens on veterinary practices. They feel it is burdensome and unnecessary to require a written prescription be provided, as well as a written notification that the prescription may be filled elsewhere, regardless of whether or not the client is having the prescription filled by the veterinarian.

• The provision that requires the vet to verify the prescription, regardless of whether the pharmacy is accredited or licensed, which places the veterinarian in both a legal and ethical dilemma. At the same time, it puts consumers at risk.

• Clients already have the flexibility to fill a prescription at their veterinary clinic or off-site at a pharmacy of their choice. The AVMA is supportive of a client's right to choose where they have their prescription filled.

I see both sides of the fence, and overall, I feel that the concept is an excellent one; I just hope it doesn’t get lost in translation. I feel pet parents have the same right to shop around for the best prices on the medications they buy for their pets, just as they do for products they buy for themselves.

While the various lobbyists continue the battle of semantics, did you know? Yes, it is true: most states already do require by law that a written prescription be provided to you, should you just ask. Did you realize that you most likely have this option available to you?  What are your thoughts with this proposed legislature after hearing “both sides?”

Photo: iStock

Dr. Shea Cox is the founder of BluePearl Pet Hospice and is a global leader in animal hospice and palliative care. With a focus on technology, innovation and education, her efforts are changing the end-of-life landscape in veterinary medicine.