Great news emerged recently from the U.S.. House, which passed an act that is very important to veterinarians, our clients, and our patients: the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act.
What is the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act?
The Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act (H.R.. 1528/S. 1171) modifies “the Controlled Substances Act and Drug Enforcement Administration policy that currently prohibits veterinarians from transporting controlled substances to administer and treat patients outside of the registered location.”
Controlled substances include “narcotics, depressants, and stimulants manufactured for legitimate medical uses, are subject to abuse, and have therefore been brought under legal control” so that these drugs “are readily available for medical use, while preventing their distribution for illicit sale and abuse.”
Controlled substances are categorized from Schedule I-V. Schedule I drugs have no known medicinal use in veterinary medicine, including heroin and marijuana (yet, such could change regarding cannabis in the future, see: Veterinary marijuana?). Schedule II-V include a variety of pain-relieving, sedating, anti-anxiety, muscle-relaxing, muscle-building, and life-ending drugs that veterinarians use for our patients.
Predating the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act, the “Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) interpretation of provisions within the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and resulting federal regulations make it illegal for registrants to transport controlled substances for use outside of a registered location.”
Why is the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act Important to Veterinary Practice?
The Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act permits veterinarians to transport controlled substances for use outside of their location of registration (i.e., typically a hospital or clinic setting).
As a mobile practitioner in Los Angeles, there’s definitely an occasional need to use controlled drugs in my house-call practice. Although I do not sedate my patients to the degree where surgery could be performed on a house-call basis, I need to give sedating and pain relieving drugs for dogs or cats who:
- have severe pain that isn’t being controlled by oral pain medications — Pets having pain from trauma, fractures, surgery, cancer, and those having advanced metabolic diseases (kidney liver failure, pancreatitis, etc.) are candidates for injectable pain-relieving drugs.
- require sedation for minor procedures — Some animals aren’t cooperative enough to undergo manual restraint for routine procedures like nail trim, bandage placement, wound care, etc. Sedation helps ensure that the task at hand can effectively be performed to a desirable level and that our patients are less likely to self-injure by struggling during the procedure.
- need to have their life ended through euthanasia — Having a beloved pet put to sleep at home is much more desirable to the majority of my clients as compared to bringing their sick animal into the hospital for the procedure. Home euthanasia permits the client to welcome family and friends for support during the process and ensures the pet’s final experiences occurs in a comfortable and familiar setting.
Although I don’t practice on large animals or wildlife, veterinarians that do need to be able to transport drugs to an off-site location. After all, animals weighing hundreds to thousands of pounds aren’t good candidates to be readily transported, or they may have ailments requiring immediate care in the field. Additionally, veterinarians may be called into action to “remove or translocate dangerous wildlife (e.g., bears, cougars) or rescue trapped wildlife (e.g., deer trapped in a fence).”
Without the ability to legally transport controlled substances to perform procedures, we veterinarians wouldn’t legally be able to provide such drugs to help improve the quality of life of our patients for fear of potentially compromising our ability to practice by violating established legal guidelines, coming under scrutiny from our state’s Veterinary Medical Board (VMB), and potentially losing our licenses to practice.
What’s Next for the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act?
Now that the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act has passed in the U.S. House, it now must move further up the chain of command and eventually be signed by the President.
Although the bill is moving in the right direction, veterinarians should still do their part in ensuring the further passage of the bill by contacting their representatives and asking for partnership in cosponsoring and voting for the The Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act (H.R. 1528/S. 1171).
You can also follow and send Tweets to the American Veterinary Medical Association at @AVMAVets, and the U.S. House of Representatives at @HouseFloor.
The ultimate passing of this bill will be a step in the right direction to benefit practicing veterinarians and the clients and patients we so dutifully serve.
Dr. Patrick Mahaney