The Chain Pharmacy Welfare Act

The Chain Pharmacy Welfare Act

A.K.A. The “Fairness” To Pet Owner’s Act


By: Arnold L. Goldman DVM, MPH  Date: 08/5/2015 Category: | Animal Legislation |

Most Americans are unaware that politicians in the pocket of the national pharmacy chains are working very hard to increase the cost, and reduce the usage, of veterinary care, yes that’s right: increase the cost and reduce the usage.

Let me explain…

The intentionally misleading title of the legislation, The “Fairness to Pet Owners” Act implies that veterinarians are unfair to their clients by monopolistically selling and unreasonably marking up medications needed to treat or prevent pet illnesses. The bill and its Congressional sponsors imply that veterinarians are unfairly profiting from medication sales and that pet owners are not already free to obtain medications elsewhere, including from online and local pharmacies. That is simply not so.

The legislation would require veterinarians across the country, immediately after seeing a patient, to default to handing every animal owner a written, paper prescription slip for every medication recommended, whether or not an animal owner had already expressed a preference to make their purchases from the veterinarian, or elsewhere. The problem with this proposed paper and recordkeeping vortex is that the process will result in veterinarians doing the pet medication marketing for the giant, national pharmacy chains, and actively encouraging their clients, hard earned through attentive customer service, to do a portion of their business elsewhere. The result will be to drive the cost of care up, and adversely impact most pet owners, especially those of limited means.

The vast collective of national pharmacy chains encouraging the passage of this legislation.

All one needs to do is look at who is pushing this legislation to understand what this is really all about. The APAW web site was set up by a vast, collective of national pharmacy chains to encourage passage of this legislation. See especially here: http://www.apaw.org/where-to-buy-meds/, and scroll down to see all the logos there depicted. Ask yourself: why would they do that except to benefit their own bottom line?

Does anyone really believe that your community veterinarians, in today’s wired world, which includes Internet pharmacies and multiple pharmacy chain store choices, actually control the market in, and access to pet medications? It’s no more complex to understand than “follow the money.” Billion dollar pharmacy chains are themselves the monopolistic entities in this fight, and they well understand that they can out compete local veterinarians on margin, especially when it comes to brand name, pre-packaged medications pet owners use to prevent parasitism and other common conditions pets are always at risk for.

Your local veterinary practice, and even your local branch of a corporate veterinary practice, are still very, very small businesses compared to the national big box pharmacy chains, which have unlimited marketing, buying and marketplace power. Veterinarians cannot compete with these behemoths on sales of anything the pharmacies may decide they want to offer and eventually control access to.

But who actually cares for your animals? And what happens should the legislation pass, and inevitably most medication sales are shifted to big, box pharmacies? How will veterinarians continue to support their practices, their staff, and themselves? Well, they will have to raise prices on professional services, of course. What choice will they have? Layoffs are not an option: we need our well-trained and trusted staff members, and they also need to earn a living wage. What then?

Well one result, and every veterinarian knows this, will be that when the cost of veterinary visits, diagnostic tests, nursing care, surgery, dentistry and all the rest goes up, there will be fewer of them requested and performed. Owners will wait longer to call us, animals will present sicker when they eventually do and the pet owners of most modest means, will avoid care entirely. With reduced medication sale opportunities, what we will soon see are veterinary consultation fees: “exams” or “office calls” or “visit” fees for general practitioners rising above $100.00 and perhaps even more. I just don’t see how that will benefit more animals, animal owners or the goal of better competition in the pet care marketplace.

When considering potential winners and losers should this legislation become law, it is obvious that the winners will be the national pharmacy chains represented by the logos depicted above, and the losers will be pet owners, especially those of modest means, and all our pets, our local veterinarians, veterinary staff and the broad societal theme of animal welfare.

Pet owners already have the flexibility to request a prescription and fill it at either a veterinary clinic or a pharmacy of their choice. In fact, the AVMA’s Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics and its guide on Client Requests for Prescriptions states that veterinarians shall write prescriptions upon request, and most states already have similar laws or policies in place.

Please think about all this the next time you have to choose between supporting your family veterinarian in favor of a national pharmacy chain. If you want to take it a step further, then contact your Congressional representatives and tell them you oppose this misguided legislation. The bill numbers are: H.R. 3174 and S. 1200 respectively.




About The Author

Arnold L. Goldman DVM, MPH's photo
Arnold L. Goldman DVM, MPH - Canton Animal Hospital

Connecticut Veterinary Medical Foundation




All Authors Of This Article: | Arnold L. Goldman DVM, MPH |
 
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