Bill would ease controlled substances law for veterinarians

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Veterinarians who transport certain controlled substances to their clients to treat or euthanize animals on farms, agricultural operations or even in clients’ homes, have technically been breaking the law, but a new bipartisan bill seeks to amend the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) making it legal to transport these drugs to the sites where they are needed.

U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Angus King (I-Maine) introduced the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act, S. 950, yesterday in the Senate. This legislation will allow veterinarians to legally carry and dispense controlled substances away from the premises or veterinary practice on file with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

The 1970 CSA stipulates that controlled substances must be stored and dispensed at that specific address, but for food-animal and rural practitioners especially, who routinely travel to farms and ranches in rural areas, the CSA makes it illegal for them to administer needed medications or euthanasia drugs on a client’s operation. It also affects other veterinarians who make house calls or who operate mobile veterinary services.

The Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act also has support in the U.S. House of Representatives from Reps. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.), both veterinarians, who introduced companion legislation, H.R. 1528, in April.

The practice of veterinary medicine is unique in that veterinarians treat multiple species of animals in a wide variety of settings. To adequately practice medicine, veterinarians are often required to provide mobile or ambulatory services in the field, says American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP) President Dr. Nigel Cook.

“This is particularly important for the cattle veterinarians in rural areas because it is often not feasible, practical or possible for farmers to transport their animals to a brick-and-mortar clinic or hospital,” Cook adds. “In addition, we are often called to euthanize animals in distress in the field, an act of compassion that often requires the use of controlled substances. The AABP recognizes the importance of this Act and fully supports its implementation.”

AABP member Dr. Fred Gingrich, a dairy practitioner in Ashland, Ohio, adds that failure to pass this legislation that would amend the controlled substance act would mean that cattle veterinarians may have to face the difficult decision of choosing between breaking the law or providing pain relief or euthanasia of an animal. “As veterinarians who care for cows, we have a taken an oath to relieve animal suffering.  This legislation allows us to uphold our oath to the animals we care for every day on farms,” Gingrich says.

In a statement on Sen. Moran’s website, Moran said, “Veterinarians play a crucial role in public safety and making certain animals in Kansas and across the country are cared for properly. The Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act allows licensed practitioners to legally transport and dispense the controlled substances necessary to practice veterinary medicine. This legislation is particularly important for veterinarians who work in rural areas, conduct research or respond to emergency situations.”

The American Veterinary Medical Association stated in a press release that The DEA’s interpretation of the law is problematic for veterinarians who need to be able to treat many species of animals in a variety of settings. AVMA says this is particularly important for veterinarians:

  • in rural areas where it is often not feasible, practical or possible for owners to bring large animals or livestock into veterinary clinics or hospitals.
  • during emergency response situations where injured animals must be cared for onsite.
  • when assisting communities with removing, rescuing or translocating dangerous wildlife and other wild animals.
  • who provide house calls for their animal patients or operate mobile veterinary clinics.
  • who are required to conduct field research and disease control efforts outside of their principal places of business.

 

AVMA noted that over 110 veterinary medical organizations and associations support this legislation.


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