Q: What does the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act (VMMA) do?
Ashley Morgan, DVM, assistant director of governmental relations for the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA): For large animal veterinarians, this act legalizes the ability to transport and dispense controlled substances at their clients’ farms and ranches—an indispensable part of the job.
Q: When will the law take effect?
Dr. Morgan: The act went into effect when it was signed into law in early August. However, we are waiting to see if the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) will provide guidance on how veterinarians should best transport controlled substances. For instance, we don’t know if you need to keep a log book with you in the truck. If a veterinarian has a question, the best thing to do is contact their local DEA field office directly.
Q: How did the VMMA come about?
Dr. Morgan: This issue was brought to our attention in 2009 when a Rhode Island state veterinarian, Dr. Scott Marshall, was denied a DEA registration because he didn’t have an address with which to register in a state where he was licensed to practice. Prior to VMMA’s passage, the DEA required a veterinarian to have a physical location in each state where he or she wanted to prescribe, administer or dispense controlled substances. With the VMMA’s passage, one still must have an address and register that location if you want to store substances. However, dispensing, including administering and prescribing, no longer requires an address unless the state law requires it.
The AVMA’s push for this act was definitely driven in response to our membership. For large animal veterinarians, in most cases, you’re not going to be able to see an animal in a clinic, even if there is a clinic nearby. The VMMA is critical for our wildlife veterinary members, for our companion members who want to provide pet home and hospice care, marine animal veterinarians, and even research in academic institutions where animals are housed in different buildings.
Q: What drugs will the VMMA affect?
Virginia R. Fajt, DVM, clinical associate professor, Texas A&M University and chair of the American Association of Bovine Practitioners (AABP) pharmaceutical and biologic issues committee: Anything that is considered a controlled substance. A food animal practitioner would potentially carry euthanasia solutions, which would be schedule II or schedule III, depending on the drug. Some pain medications bovine veterinarians commonly use would fall under the Controlled Substances Act. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are not controlled, but there are practitioners that use butorphanol for particular procedures. In addition tramadol, commonly used in small animals, just became a controlled substance as of August this year.
Q: In what situations will a beef veterinarian find this helpful?
Dr. Fajt: Typically for short-term, pre- or post-operative pain control for various surgical procedures. Prior to this law, many veterinarians would have these drugs in a hospital or clinic lockbox. Then, they drive out to calls. Previously, this practice could have been perceived as illegal transportation of controlled substance.
Q: Can veterinarians transport controlled substances in states where they are not registered?
Dr. Morgan: Veterinarians must be licensed to practice and meet state requirements in all states where they want to use controlled substances. However, you only have to have a DEA registration associated with your principal places of business (i.e. locations where inventory of controlled substances is stored). For example, a large animal veterinarian with a practice registered in one state can transport and use controlled substances in a neighboring state, so long as the veterinarian is licensed and authorized to use controlled substances within the neighboring state. The veterinarian must meet and maintain federal and state security and record keeping requirements for the inventory.
The VMMA did not resolve all issues facing veterinarians. For example, we know that in some areas of the country, like in the northeast, it may be easier for veterinarians to drive through a corner of a bordering state where they are not licensed in order to see patients in states where they are licensed. This reduces the amount of time and distance they would have had to drive if they had only remained in states where they are licensed. This is something that still needs to be worked out, but we hope the DEA would use enforcement discretion in these limited situations.
Q: What AVMA or AABP guidelines does the act help support?
Dr. Morgan: It supports AVMA’s Veterinarian’s Oath, so that we are able to use our knowledge and skills for the benefit of society through the protection of animal health and welfare and the prevention and relief of animal suffering. It was practically impossible to meet these things you’ve sworn to uphold if you can’t go to where the animals are and provide that care. It’s a no-brainer that vets have to be able to do these things in order to practice. That’s why the VMMA received so much support from the veterinary community, stakeholders, and across the political spectrum.
H.R. 1528, reads as follows:
To amend the Controlled Substances Act to allow a veterinarian to transport and dispense controlled substances in the usual course of veterinary practice outside of the registered location.
This Act may be cited as the ‘‘Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act of 2014’’.
SEC. 2. Transport and Dispensing Of Controlled Substances In The Usual Course Of Veterinary Practice.
Section 302(e) of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 822(e)) is amended—(1) by striking ‘‘(e)’’ and inserting ‘‘(e)(1)’’; and (2) by adding at the end the following: ‘‘(2) Notwithstanding paragraph (1), a registrant who is a veterinarian shall not be required to have a separate registration in order to transport and dispense controlled substances in the usual course of veterinary practice at a site other than the registrant’s registered principal place of business or professional practice, so long as the site of transporting and dispensing is located in a State where the veterinarian is licensed to practice veterinary medicine and is not a principal place of business or professional practice.’’
Other helpful resources: