Submission Number: 560891-00318
Received: 9/11/2012 5:50:40 PM
Commenter: Timothy Fouts
Organization: Hillside Small Animal Hospital
Agency: Federal Trade Commission
Initiative: Request for Comments and Announcement of Workshop on Pet Medications Issues, Project No. P121201
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I’ve owned my owned veterinary practice for over 15 years. In my opinion, there are two arguments against HR1406. First at issue is the safety and well-being of the pet population.
Historically, veterinarians have been the primary dispensers of veterinary prescriptions because they have the expertise to benefit and protect their patients through proper dispensing. Pharmacists do not have this expertise, and so traditionally have served a secondary purpose in filling prescriptions that were unusual medications that perhaps veterinarians did not stock for dispensing due to expense or shelf-life limitations. This was a symbiotic relationship that benefited all involved, not the least of which is the veterinary patient and the owner, the “consumer”. My state’s (Ohio) pharmacy law does not contain the words “animal” or “veterinary” under the definition of “Practice of Pharmacy”.
The second argument is the question of economics, and what is considered fair trade. The 2007 U.S. Census of Manufacturing reported that total U.S. revenues from veterinary pharmaceuticals were over $5.41 billion. And to put it quite simply, large corporations like Walmart and Kroger want a piece of that pie. So they claim it’s not fair to the consumer, or to the corporations themselves that veterinarians don’t offer up written prescriptions when dispensing a medication, or make it known to our clients that the pharmacy down the street may be able to fill the same prescription. “There ought to be a law!” they cry. And so they’ve introduced one. They’re spending a lot of money, and asking the Federal Government to spend some of the taxpayer’s money to pass a law that allows them to share in what they perceive to be a large profit pool. All under the guise that it’s fairer to the consumer.
So, let’s look at whether or not this new law is fair. Products that I sell - including prescriptions dispensed, over-the-counter products like shampoos and nutritional supplements - account for approximately 25% of my practice’s annual revenue. In one month, the local Kroger or Meijer pharmacy can give away as a loss-leader the same amount of medication I sell in one year. This is the cost of competition, to be sure. Competition from pharmacies is real and fair in our economy. But as my revenue from dispensed prescriptions is lost, I will have to raise my professional fees in order to continue to pay my mortgage and utilities, pay my employees a decent living wage, provide them with health care benefits, and maintain the same level of care and service to our patients. As I’ve stated, the public does not uniformly except that veterinary fees should be concomitant with human health care costs. This increased cost of care may mean fewer of my patients would receive the care they need.
Mandatory prescription writing legislation gives an unfair advantage to our competition. The onus is upon them to market their services to the pet-owning public. Mandatory prescription writing would mean that I will be compelled by law to market their services for them. Should it be mandatory for Walmart cashiers to inform every customer that the goods they are purchasing can also be purchased at other retailers? This would seem preposterous. The responsibility belongs to the competitive businesses themselves to inform the consumer of the goods they sell. Yet, this is a fitting analogy. Likewise, pharmacists are not required by law to inform customers purchasing can also be purchased at other retailers? This would seem preposterous. The responsibility belongs to the competitive businesses themselves to inform the consumer of the goods they sell. Yet, this is a fitting analogy. Likewise, pharmacists are not required by law to inform customers purchasing pet medication, that the pet owner’s veterinarian can dispense the same medication.
I believe this law to be a money grab by large pharmacy chains. It’s an abuse of legislative influence, and does not serve the public good.