Bill would give veterinarians OK to carry controlled drugs outside practices

AVMA: Statutory change allows veterinarians to provide 'complete care'

Published: May 19, 2013
By Jennifer Fiala

Lawmakers propose amending the Controlled Substance Act of 1970 to permit veterinarians to freely transport the drugs they need to euthanize, anesthetize or manage pain in animals.

The Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act of 2013, introduced Wednesday by Sens. Jerry Moran and Angus King, would make it legal for veterinarians to transport and dispense controlled substances during farm or house calls, field research, mobile veterinary appointments or other settings beyond their brick-and-mortar practices. The measure has a companion in the House, introduced last month by Reps. Kurt Schrader and Ted Yoho, both of whom are veterinarians.

More than 100 veterinary associations support the legislation. The American Veterinary Medical Association is asking veterinarians to lobby for its passage.   

“Without the ability for veterinarians to be mobile and treat their animal patients wherever they need to, veterinarians are unable to provide complete care and their animal patients may suffer,” AVMA President Dr. Doug Aspros said Thursday in a statement. “Veterinarians must be able to transport the necessary medications beyond their brick-and-mortar clinics for the health and welfare of the nation’s animals, to safeguard public safety and protect the nation’s food supply.”

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration interprets the Controlled Substances Act, or CSA, as prohibiting veterinarians to transport controlled drugs away from where they are registered to handle them. “A separate registration is required for each principal place of business or professional practice at one general physical location where controlled substances are manufactured, distributed, imported, exported or dispensed by a person,” CSA regulatory code states.

The DEA’s stance was not widely known to veterinarians until last April, when practitioners in California received letters from the agency asking them to confirm their places of business, which for many veterinarians is their home address.  

“DEA has historically provided an exception that a practitioner who is registered at one location, but also practices at other locations, is not required to register separately for any other location at which controlled substances are only prescribed,” explained DEA public affairs official Dawn Dearden in a May 2012 email to the VIN News Service. “If the practitioner maintains supplies of controlled substances, administers, or directly dispenses controlled substances at a separate location, the practitioner must register for that location.”

In general, the DEA frowns upon storing controlled substances in homes or vehicles.

“Veterinarians do need to be aware that the listed principal place of business is where the DEA expects that the controlled substances are stored securely with the log book, in accordance with the Controlled Substances Act,” the AVMA said in an April 20, 2012, statement. “Any veterinarian who lists their home as the principal place of business should be prepared that the DEA may conduct a spot-check to confirm compliance with the regulations.”
It’s unclear whether the DEA has cited a veterinarian for transporting controlled drugs to appointments outside of a registered location. Dearden says it’s difficult to determine what penalties could be applied in hypothetical cases because it would depend on the circumstances.  

“But any violation of the CSA could result in criminal and/or administrative action,” she added.

The Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act of 2013 is awaiting lawmakers' consideration. In the House, the bill was referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations. The Senate version was referred to the branch's Judiciary Committee.

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