More states requiring controlled substances reporting

Veterinarians dispensing controlled substances face new, mandatory reporting requirements from states—in addition to federal reporting requirements.

Veterinarians have long been obligated to report dispensing of controlled substances under the federal Controlled Substances Act. Now, 12 states are mandating their own reporting requirements—in addition to federal requirements. And that number promises to grow.

Veterinarians who don’t comply with both sets of regulations face serious penalties.

Currently, 36 states have enacted their own controlled substance reporting regulations. According to The National Alliance for Model State Drug Laws, 12 of those states specifically require veterinarians to comply with the requirements. Two states — North Dakota and West Virginia — are awaiting decisions as to whether veterinarians must comply with drug reporting laws.

Experts say such state regulation is a growing trend.

“I think that at the core, the intentions behind the state laws are to protect the public interest and public safety,” says veterinary attorney Shaun Graham, Barnes & Thornburg, LLP, Grand Rapids, Mich. “The flip side of the coin is that many of the veterinarian practices and veterinary hospitals out there are fairly characterized as small businesses. They’re being subjected to additional regulations by these states.”

Graham says veterinarians may find such reporting onerous, especially in cases when they’re already reporting dispensing the drugs to federal regulators. But the penalties for failing to report to the state can be stiff, ranging from penalties in the thousands of dollars to several years in prison.

The real problem, he says, comes when a veterinary practice spans state lines and crosses into two ore more jurisdictions. Because every state law varies, practices can find themselves saddled with reams of paperwork each time they dispense a drug classified as a “controlled substance.” “It’s difficult for them to track it and make sure they’re complying,” says Graham.

That’s compounded by misinformation. Many doctors are under the false impression that state controlled substance reporting regulations only apply to pharmacies and to doctors who treat human patients. But that’s not an excuse in the court’s eyes.

“Most veterinarians are aware of their obligations under the Controlled Substances Act,” says Graham. “But some are not as readily aware of state laws that may apply to them.”

He says that as more states enact such regulations and they change over time, veterinarians would be well-advised to stay in close touch with an attorney who is familiar with all of the relevant issues. Sadly, he says, it’s another sign that veterinary medicine is becoming more and more regulated by states, whose lawmakers may not understand the whole impact of the regulations they enact. But ignorance is definitely not bliss.

“You risk the possibility of having your authorization to dispense these substances yanked by the state, which could be disastrous,” he says. “The state governs licensure, so there’s a potential risk there as well. And that’s not to mention the possibility of fines or jail time. The penalties can be significant.”

NEWStat Legislation & regulation