AVMA asks vets to weigh in on pet meds

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) is asking veterinarians to weigh in on competition and consumer protection issues in the pet medications industry at an upcoming Federal Trade Commission (FTC) workshop.

The workshop will be a public meeting held in Washington, D.C. on Oct. 2, 2012 (participants can also submit comments ahead of time either in writing or online). The FTC plans to bring together consumers, veterinarians, business representatives, economists, lawyers and academics to consider how industry distribution and other business practices affect consumer choice and price competition for pet medications.

Among the topics discussed will be the ability of consumers to obtain written, portable prescriptions that can be filled wherever they choose.

According to the FTC, the workshop will examine ways to inform and empower consumers by looking at how changes in prescription portability practices in the contact lens industry might serve as an example for the pet medications industry.

The AVMA plans to participate as a panelist in the discussions, but is asking that as many veterinarians weigh in as possible since AVMA comments will only count as one set of responses.

Ashley Morgan, DVM, assistant director of the AVMA’s governmental relations division, said that veterinarians need to speak up on the topic in order to impact the decision-making process.

"Only veterinarians can speak so specifically to how legislation on veterinary prescription writing would impact them, and only veterinarians can explain how and why they make the decisions they do concerning prescription writing," Morgan said. "While the AVMA will be a panelist at the workshop and submit official comments, we cannot speak to the decision-making processes of practitioners or impacts that individual veterinarians would see."

Interested parties who are unable to attend the workshop can submit written comments by Sept. 14, 2012. Comments may be filed electronically, or in paper form.

Morgan said it’s important for veterinarians to weigh in so that the profession is accurately represented.

"This is not the time to avoid speaking up," Morgan said. "The more who submit comments and weigh in, the better represented the profession and the health and welfare of animals will be."

This is a prime opportunity for veterinarians to get more involved in legislative issues, Morgan said.

"I hear over and over from vets, asking what more they can do besides contact their Congressional member, and this is their opportunity," Morgan said. "At the same time, many feel that a few comments to a federal agency wont have an impact, but thats just not the case. We have numerous instances, including issues with the FTC, where we have worked directly with the agency to the benefit of the profession."

The FTC says that in 2011, 62 percent of U.S. households owned a pet, and Americans spent an estimated $50 billion on their pets, including nearly $7 billion for prescription and over-the-counter pet medications.

The workshop comes at a time when the AVMA is actively pursuing defeat of H.R. 1406, the Fairness to Pet Owners Act of 2011. The legislation, which was introduced on April 6, 2011, would impose new stipulations on veterinary prescriptions.

The bill would require a veterinarian to write a prescription regardless of whether he/she will dispense the product, provide a written disclosure notifying clients that they may fill prescriptions at the clinic or at an off-site pharmacy, and verify a prescription electronically or by other means consistent with applicable state law.

The AVMA argues that H.R. 1406 is redundant and will cause "undue regulatory and administrative burdens on veterinary practices."

The AVMA says clients already have the flexibility to fill a prescription at their veterinary clinic or off-site at a pharmacy of their choice. The AVMA says it believes that veterinarians are uniquely trained to provide the best professional guidance and education to pet owners when dispensing prescription products.

The FTC workshop on Oct. 2 will be free and open to the public. No pre-registration is required.

Learn more about the workshop from the FTC.