Jul
23
2014

HR 4023, a source of contention within the veterinary profession since it made its first appearance in 2011, is now headed to the Senate for consideration.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) will sponsor the bill, which they are touting as a solution to lowering pet owners' costs for medication, the Epoch Times reported.

"Too many pet owners are leashed to their vets," Blumenthal said during a July 20 press conference. "Too many consumers are caged by vets who charge them as much as 240-percent markup from wholesale drug prices."

The bill would require veterinarians to provide pet owners with copies of prescriptions - whether or not they request it - to allow pet owners to comparison shop at pharmacies or online drugstores. The proposed measure also specifies that veterinarians cannot charge for prescriptions or ask clients to sign a liability waiver regarding the written prescription.

Ashley Morgan, DVM, assistant director of the AVMA Governmental Relations Division, responded to news of the bill by writing that the AVMA is displeased that the senators are introducing the legislation "under the guise of saving consumers money on their pets' medications."

Morgan wrote that veterinarians are being portrayed as a group that attempts to protect revenue generated by medication sales by purposely withholding prescriptions from clients. This portrayal of veterinarians is far from the truth, Morgan said.

"The senators believe that veterinarians oppose this legislation because of a need to protect a revenue-generating business," she wrote. "However, the truth is that the vast majority of veterinarians are fulfilling clients' requests for prescriptions when asked, and they focus on finding the most economical medications that will do the job."

If passed, the proposed legislation would impact veterinarians across the United States, considering that only two states currently require veterinarians to provide prescriptions, the Epoch Times reported. Seventeen states enable pet owners to receive prescriptions upon request, and 31 states have no requirements regarding dispensing prescriptions.

Comments (2) -

tw
twUnited States
7/24/2014 5:38:21 PM #

We provide written prescriptions for all clients for all medications prescribed upon request.  This is not a problem.  The problem is that the federal government thinks they can legislate protection for the consumer into everything.  Not so much.  Cash flow in the veterinary practice pharmacy is already a growing challenge.  Adding more paperwork will not help the consumer and certainly not the veterinarian.  It takes a certain amount of cash flow to operate a veterinary practice so taking from one practice profit center will require increased cash flow in other profit centers.  How does that help the consumer?

Matthew Kelcourse
Matthew KelcourseUnited States
7/25/2014 7:25:33 AM #

In addressing some of the specifics:

1) Providing every client with a written prescription whether or not they request it?

We are an eco-friendly, paper-less as possible hospital and we'd be told to waste more paper? As part of going "Green", we phone in most of our scripts (again, to save on paper and keep client costs down). If we have to provide a written script for every client, our costs will go up (paper, toner, printer workload, staff time consumption, etc...) and we will have to pass those costs along to the client. So no savings there.

2) Veterinarians being accused of protecting a revenue generating business?

What with all the government subsidies provided our profession, we should be able to keep our hospitals open; pay our staff; stock supplies; attend conferences; provide health care; and modernize equipment all without having a concern for the bottom line. Surely, it's no surprise that a politician could believe any respectable veterinarian can succeed without generating revenue.

What I do like about the bill is that it highlights a fact that most veterinary marketing strategists boast about town - your hospital pharmacy is a profit center; and I've seen it time and time again... veterinarians over-medicating and some of those decisions are driven by the realization their pharmacy is profitable.

At our hospital - we script out as much as we can - when we can - because Walmart can sell most medications to our clients for a lot less than we could afford to. As a result, we stock a very limited pharmacy that costs very little to maintain and our clients appreciate the fact that we are doing what we can to help them afford quality health care for their pet.

In the end - if this bill passes, there will be a lot of veterinarians who are already doing the right thing who will have to bare the burden of more regulatory paperwork (don't believe for a moment such a bill passing would not mean more regulatory oversight, taxes & fees and record keeping)... all because some politicians have the irrational belief that veterinarians have their clients caged.

Matthew W. Kelcourse, DVM

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