Walmart’s “Fairness to Pet Owners” Act has been Re-introduced… not sure whether to smile or frown. Rep. Jim Matheson (D-UT-4th) reintroduced the Fairness to Pet Owners Act (H.R. 4023) on February 10, 2014. You may recall that the EXACT same bill was introduced a few years back (H.R. 1406) only to be killed in committee. This bill is sponsored by Walmart, which announced in 2011 that its pharmacies will not carry a full line of animal medications. H.R. 4023 would impose new stipulations on veterinary prescriptions. The bill requires a veterinarian to:
1. Write a prescription whether or not he/she will dispense the medication to the client;
2. Provide a written disclosure notifying clients that they may fill prescriptions at the veterinary clinic or at an off-site pharmacy; and
3. Verify a prescription electronically or by other means consistent with applicable State law.
Additionally, a veterinarian may not:
· Require the purchase of an animal drug for which the veterinarian has written a prescription;
· Charge a client a fee for writing a prescription as part of (or in addition to) the fee for examination and evaluation of a pet; or,
· Require a client to sign, or supply a client with, a waiver or liability disclaimer should the prescription be inaccurately filled by an off-site pharmacy.
At first glance- this bill appears to be beneficial by allowing consumers to obtain their medications wherever they want. But, is this really the best idea? Retail pharmacists have no official training in dispensing animal medications– they only focus on human medications. So, when they pull you aside to talk about the meds that your animal is receiving, they have no training behind their advice. The Oregon Veterinary Medical Association conducted a survey among its veterinarian members in 2012 that found some disturbing trends with retail pharmacists. Some of the most unsettling findings were that:
· 57% of the veterinarians taking the survey indicated that they have received a telephone call from a retail pharmacist who expressed concern with the prescription because the pharmacist did not understand anything about why the drug was being prescribed.
· It appears to be fairly common for retail pharmacists to change (most often lowering) the dosage of thyroid medications and Phenobarbital.
· Pharmacists have also changed a patient’s insulin to a less expensive insulin, believing the two products are interchangeable when they are not. In several instances, this has led to serious health concerns for the patient.
· A retail pharmacist recommended that a client treat her arthritic dog with a high dosage of Tylenol to manage the animal’s discomfort and pain. Acetaminophen is the active ingredient in Tylenol and can cause irreversible liver damage in dogs; there are no safe dosages for cats.
· About 10-15 patients have had to be euthanized as a result of improper actions by a retail pharmacist.
To make matters worse, some animal owners (ok… lots of animal owners) obtain their medications online. But, the United States Food and Drug Administration warns of the dangers of doing so. This is because on countless occasions, drugs from the internet pharmacies are adulterated, contaminated or expired. Check out FDAs website on pet pharmacies- not exactly rosey.
So- now the $64,000 question: Readers- how do you feel about this subject? Should medications be provided by veterinarians to clients in order to ensure that all questions are answered, the medication is correct, and the animal receives the right medications? Or, is it best to let owners fend for them self in a “buyer-beware” market and hope that animals do not suffer in the process? Your thoughts would be much appreciated!