Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut is at it again. He introduced the “Fairness To Pet Owner” bill, S-1200, again even though it has been defeated before – not once but twice. This bill is supposed to “promote competition and help consumers save money by giving them the freedom to choose where they buy prescription pet medications and for other purposes.” This bill requires veterinarians to write prescriptions for every medication a pet needs, even if the client wants to fill it at the veterinarian’s clinic. If this bill passes, this is how it would work. A Veterinarian gives their client a prescription. Then the client will have to take the script to a pharmacy as in human medicine or present it back to the veterinarian to have the prescription filled. The backers of this bill believe veterinarians charge unfair prices for medications. By mandating a prescription, they believe pet owners will be able to shop the medication around and get a better price. They also state that a law is needed to force veterinarians to write prescriptions because they will refuse otherwise. Let’s examine if any of these statements are true.
1) Prescriptions: Like all clinical veterinarian’s, I write prescriptions for my client’s pets all the time. As is customary, I do not charge for this service. Whenever asked, I write it as long as I have a valid doctor-patient relationship. All of the veterinarians I know do the same thing. Our code of ethics require that we write prescriptions whenever a client requests one. Therefore, the author of this bill is mistaken in that veterinarians cannot refuse to give out prescriptions. Nor have I ever known one to do so.
2) Cost of Drugs: Drugs are not always cheaper at Walmart or other pharmacies. I recently had a client request a prescription for carprofen, a medication used for osteoarthritis in dogs. After learning our cost, she felt she could get a better deal at the Walmart up the road. She returned a few hours later because the drug was cheaper at my clinic! I have another patient who suffers from a rare form of epilepsy and is treated with a drug called Keppra. Since I do not carry this drug at my clinic, I called in a prescription to a pharmacy as the client requested. I received an angry call when she picked up the medication because it was $250 for a 30 day supply. The next month, she checked all the major pharmacies and the price was about the same – still around $200. So I decided to check the specialty veterinary clinic where the dog was first diagnosed and they had the best price. There a 30 day supply cost only $52.00.
3) Cost of Compliance: It costs money to comply with regulations. If this bill passes, veterinarians will be forced to potentially add staff to handle the extra paperwork or see fewer patients to give the current staff time to process and store the extra prescriptions. In the end, this unnecessary charge will be passed through to pet owners in higher service fees. So pet owners will end up paying more to fix a problem that never existed. As is so often the case with government solutions, this is a solution in search of a problem.
I would like to know what is motivating Senator Blumenthal and the cosponsors of this bill, Mike Lee of Utah and Charles Schumer of New York, to keep introducing this bill. Do they really understand how veterinary clinics operate or are they simply pushing through a bill to help some financial backer?
With the fiscal train wreck our nation’s finance represent this is the kind of nonsense these ostensibly august senators are spending their time on. I ask pet owners to contact their senators and tell them to vote no on S-1200. While you’re at it, if you live in these senator’s states, I also invite you to vote them out of office – our country has too many pressing issues to have senators waste time on a bill that has already failed twice and for good reason.
Morgan, Ashley. “Back at it again: Congress Introduce Sweeping Prescription Mandate for Veterinarians”, Arizona Veterinary News, May 2015.