The U.S Senate has passed the most recent version of the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act, bringing veterinarians nearer to the possibility of being able to carry and administer controlled substances outside of their practices. The bill was passed by the House of Representatives a week earlier, and though the Senate originally passed the bill unanimously in January of 2014, they wanted to reiterate their support for the most current version. In the past veterinarians have been inhibited by the Controlled Substance Act, a law which stipulated that veterinarians could not take controlled substances beyond the registered addresses of their practices. This was particularly inconvenient in rural areas, where veterinarians are often tasked with driving to farms and houses to care for animal patients, at times even having to travel across state lines. Now that both houses have passed the bill, the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act is waiting on the President’s signature. This is a tremendous development for veterinary technicians.
The Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act
The bill was introduced to the Senate on June 17, 2013 by Senator Jerry Moran from Kansas.1 House sponsors included Representatives Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) and Ted Yoho (R-Fla.). By January of the following year, the bill had been passed unanimously and was then referred to a House subcommittee. When the bill was later passed in the House of Representative, the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) issued a press release thanking Congress for their support. An earlier statement of support had been signed by numerous veterinary organizations including the American Board of Veterinary Practitioners, the American Dairy Science Organization, the American Farm Bureau Federation, the International Association for Animal Hospice and Palliative Care and the Student American Veterinary Medical Association, among many others.2 The Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals also applauded Congress for passing the bill.
If the bill is signed into law, the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act will give veterinary medical professionals the ability to bring controlled substances to their patients to perform medical treatment on site. Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, cited that the act not only better serves animals but also helps protect the nation’s food supply.3 The act takes away the requirement that vets who are already registered to distribute controlled substances must have a separate registration to transport and dispense controlled substances in the line of work.4 This applies to every state in which a veterinarian is allowed to practice medicine.
Why vets need to be mobile
Veterinarians have always had a need for mobility because they treat many species of animals, some of which are not easily transported.5 Many farmers and inhabitants of rural areas might simply not be able to take animals to veterinary facilities. Vets that run mobile spay and neuter businesses, attend to animals in shelters, operate mobile clinics and respond to emergency situations are currently impeded by the Controlled Substance Act.6
Veterinarians used controlled substances for a variety of reasons across their numerous job functions. Vets may have to use these drugs to perform emergency procedures, to relocate dangerous wildlife, rescue trapped wildlife , conduct research and initiate disease control efforts.7 The DEA has cracked down on several drugs vets often use that fall under the Controlled Substance Act. Many veterinary associations have complained that the DEA’s enforcement of this law has limited them from performing essential job functions.
On another front, the American Veterinary Medical Association seems less enthused about a bill recently introduced to the Senate titled the Fairness of Pet Owners Act. The bill claims to give animal owners more options in where they purchase pet medications. However, the AVMA claims to process of writing prescriptions whether or not a pet owner requests them is burdensome and specious.
According to the AVMA, “the legislation would require a veterinarian to provide a client with a written prescription for domesticated household animals, whether or not requested by the client. The veterinarian would be prohibited from charging for the prescription or asking a client to sign a liability waiver related to writing the prescription.”8
Overall, what is most important for vets moving forward is the ability to perform their jobs unhindered. Regulations on controlled substances and the protocol for writing prescriptions prevents veterinary professionals from performing professional functions efficiently. In some cases this is a simple matter of safety. Large animals potentially need to be sedated to be relocated or treated, and without vets being able to use controlled substances outside of their physical practices, they could be putting themselves in danger. The strict enforcement of the DEA has good intentions of cutting down on drug abuse, but in this case it is misplaced and has noticeably prevented veterinarians from being able to perform in rural communities.
1“Bill Summary & Status 113th Congress (2013 – 2014) S.1171” The Library of Congress. http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d113:SN01171:@@@L&summ2=m&
2“Statement of Support for the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act of 2013” The American Veterinary Medical Association. https://www.avma.org/Advocacy/National/Congress/Documents/VMMA-Coalition-Statement-of-Support-4-14-14.pdf
3“Senate Opts to Pass House’s Vet Mobility Bill” Farm Futures. July 18, 2014. http://farmfutures.com/story-senate-opts-pass-houses-vet-mobility-bill-0-115235
4“Bill Summary & Status 113th Congress (2013 – 2014) S.1171” The Library of Congress. http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/bdquery/z?d113:SN01171:@@@L&summ2=m&
5“Statement of Support for the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act of 2013” The American Veterinary Medical Association. https://www.avma.org/Advocacy/National/Congress/Documents/VMMA-Coalition-Statement-of-Support-4-14-14.pdf
6“Senate Opts to Pass House’s Vet Mobility Bill” Farm Futures. July 18, 2014. http://farmfutures.com/story-senate-opts-pass-houses-vet-mobility-bill-0-115235
7“Statement of Support for the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act of 2013” The American Veterinary Medical Association. https://www.avma.org/Advocacy/National/Congress/Documents/VMMA-Coalition-Statement-of-Support-4-14-14.pdf
8“Oppose the Fairness to Pet Owners Act of 2014” The American Veterinary Medical Association. http://avmacan.avma.org/avma/issues/alert/?alertid=63099296