Veterinarians across the country can soon breathe a collective sigh of relief that they will be able to carry and use controlled substances to provide complete care to their animal patients beyond their clinics and across state lines after unanimous House passage of H.R. 1528, the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act.
Introduced by two House members who are veterinarians themselves – Rep. Kurt Schrader (D., Ore.) and Rep. Ted Yoho (R., Fla.) – the bill clarifies that it is legal for veterinarians to transport and use controlled substances beyond their registered places of business. It also allows licensed veterinarians to register in multiple states, regardless of where their principal place of business is located.
Veterinarians have previously been told by the Drug Enforcement Administration that the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) barred registrants from taking controlled substances beyond their registered locations, such as their clinics or homes. This narrow interpretation of the law has been problematic for veterinarians who provide care in a variety of settings. The DEA had also maintained that veterinarians must have a physical address within each state where they want to be registered; this interpretation has restricted veterinarians who live along state borders, but need to provide care in both states.
The American Veterinary Medical Assn. has been actively engaged with the DEA and members of Congress and their staff for more than a year, explaining how this restrictive provision in the CSA affected its member veterinarians’ ability to provide complete veterinary care to their animal patients.
Dr. Clark Fobian, president of the AVMA, said, “Congress made it clear that veterinarians are responsible public servants who must be able to use vital medications to treat their patients—no matter the location—so that they receive the best quality care. We applaud our elected officials for clarifying federal statute, which has left veterinarians confused and concerned over the past year.”
“As a large animal veterinarian, my operating room wasn't always in an office. Most times, it was in the field,” said Yoho. “Expecting ranchers to transport their livestock to a veterinary clinic every time medication is needed is an example of overly burdensome policy created by bureaucrats rather than the folks who know the issue. This bill will correct that problem and allow veterinarians to practice their profession without fear of unnecessary government intrusion.
Schrader called it a victory for veterinarians but also for the health and well-being of the animals they are entrusted to care for. “Ridiculous bureaucratic interference from the DEA would have seriously impeded veterinarians' ability to properly treat their patients. The Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act will provide veterinarians with the certainty they need to continue to providing mobile or ambulatory services for their animal patients,” he noted.
The Senate unanimously passed its version of the bill (S. 1171) on Jan. 8. The two bills are identical and noncontroversial, but do have different bill numbers. Usually it is easier for one of the chambers just to pass the other’s bill.
Now one of the chambers has to vote on the other one’s bill in order to send one bill number for the president to sign. It is most likely that the Senate will take up the House version, but if it doesn’t do it in short order, then it could be just the opposite where the House takes up the Senate version.
Fobian added AVMA looks forward to seeing the President sign the legislation into law in the near future.