April 25, 2013

PARANDEKAR: Mobilizing Controlled Substances

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It’s the end of second year now, which means it’s around the time to start thinking about what we want to do with the rest of our lives. I was going to write this last column of the semester about the process of making those “big life decisions,” but there are more important legislative issues to discuss. The Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act of 2013 is currently before Congress. This act is an amendment to the Controlled Substances Act, and would allow veterinarians to transport and dispense controlled substances at locations besides the address on their Drug Enforcement Administration registration.

Here’s a little additional background on the issue: The Controlled Substances Act was enacted in 1970. Part of the law stipulates that controlled substances can only be stored and dispensed at the specific address that is on file with the DEA. However, the ability to provide ambulatory care is an important facet of veterinary medicine. General equine and farm animal veterinarians typically travel to farms for much of their work because their clients often don’t have the time or resources to travel to a large animal hospital. These ambulatory veterinarians carry all of the materials and drugs that they need to use in their trucks and are based out of an office (which can be anything from a full service hospital to a small home office). Additionally, small animal veterinarians often offer house-call services to their patients, particularly for at-home euthanasia services, which ensure that a beloved pet’s last moments are as calm and peaceful as possible. There are also mobile veterinary clinics that work in impoverished areas to spay and neuter cats and dogs. On top of this, there are veterinarians who work to treat and relocate dangerous wildlife that could pose a serious risk to human health.

So, as you’ve probably figured out by now, veterinarians need to be able to carry around drugs with them. Several of these drugs, primarily ones used for pain control, sedation and euthanasia have been listed as controlled substances in the Controlled Substances Act. Without them, veterinarians would not be able to provide critical care to their patients. During the last 40 years, there have not been many run-ins between the DEA and the veterinary community. However, in the last year, several ambulatory veterinarians (starting in California) received notices from the DEA that they were in violation of the Controlled Substances Act and could face penalties such as the revocation of their DEA registration, fines and even criminal charges if there is evidence of further associated illegal activities such as illegal distribution. It’s a little unclear, but the exception seems to be that veterinarians are allowed to carry a predetermined amount of medications if they know exactly how much they will need for specific appointments. However, this would not work for spay/neuter clinics where there are an unknown number of animals, or for emergencies, which are an important aspect of ambulatory veterinary medicine.

Continued enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act would essentially drive ambulatory veterinarians out of their jobs. I can’t stress enough how important it is that the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act passes. Veterinary contribution to the misuse of pain medication falls near the bottom of the scale of all of the drug problems in this country. The DEA’s resources are better suited for more deep-rooted problems, especially since veterinary use of controlled substances is vital to the health and well-being of the patients and the public. If you’re interested in helping, you can google AVMA Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act which provides a way to send a form letter (personalized, if you wish) to your congressperson.

Thanks for reading this year, see you in the fall with news on those “big life decisions” and hopefully some summer adventure stories. As always, please e-mail me if there’s anything that you would like to see me write about!

Nikhita Parandekar graduated from Cornell in 2011 and is a second-year veterinary student in the Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine. She may be reached at [email protected] Hoof in Mouth appears alternate Fridays this semester.

Original Author: Nikhita Parandekar