Daily Rules, Proposed Rules, and Notices of the Federal Government
The quality and cost of pet medications is an important pocketbook issue for many consumers. In 2011, 62 percent of U.S. households owned a pet, and Americans spent an estimated $50 billion on their pets,
Pet owners spend significantly more money on their pets than in past decades, and the market for pet medications has grown significantly in recent years.
Historically, veterinarians have been the principal dispensers of pet medications because of their unique role in the veterinarian-client-patient relationship, whereby a veterinarian examines, diagnoses, and treats the animal (patient), while also providing information to the animal's owner (client). Consumers still purchase most of their pet medications from the veterinarians who examine their pets, and most pet medication manufacturers choose to distribute their products exclusively through the veterinary channel.
Nonetheless, pet medications are no longer sold exclusively by veterinarians. Over the last ten years, brick-and-mortar and online retail and pharmacy entities (hereinafter collectively referred to as “retailers”) also have begun selling pet medications, especially OTC medications. Some evidence suggests that these retailers may offer substantial pro-consumer benefits, such as increased convenience and lower prices.
Although retailers may obtain some portion of their pet medication products directly from manufacturers or authorized distributors, they also rely heavily on secondary supply channels. Most manufacturers state that they restrict the distribution of their pet
In the workshop, the Commission seeks to examine issues related to the distribution of pet medications from practical, economic, and legal perspectives. The Commission invites public comment on questions relevant to this topic, including:
• How are pet medications distributed to consumers?
• What are the business rationales for various pet medication distribution practices?
• How has competition to sell medications to pet owners evolved in light of these distribution practices?
• How do these practices affect prices to consumers?
• How do these practices affect product supply and quality?
• How do these practices affect consumer choice?
• How do these practices affect entry into the pet medications market?
• How do these practices affect innovation in the pet medications market?
• What efficiencies or inefficiencies are associated with these practices?
• What, if any, product safety or counterfeiting issues exist with respect to these practices? Have there been instances in which false or misleading information about product safety risks was disseminated to consumers?
• Are there other factors that should be considered when analyzing the competition and consumer protection issues related to the distribution of pet medications?
All industry participants agree that pets should be properly examined and diagnosed by a veterinarian to determine the most appropriate course of treatment for any medical condition, including whether any medication should be prescribed. When a veterinarian writes a prescription for a medication to be dispensed and subsequently administered by a pet's owner, the prescription must be filled with the correct medication and dosage and the owner must have access to relevant information about the medication and proper administration techniques. Some observers argue that veterinarians are in the best position to carry out these responsibilities; these observers believe, therefore, that veterinarians alone should dispense prescription pet medications to their clients. Others argue that licensed pharmacists are equally capable of dispensing pet medications to consumers, provided the pharmacists dispense the correct medication and dosage as prescribed by a veterinarian; these advocates point out that veterinarians can still provide relevant information and follow-up care to their clients even if they do not dispense the medication. Concerns about the safety of pet medications dispensed by pharmacists appear less pronounced for OTC medications, which do not require a prescription and typically do not require direct supervision by a veterinarian.
A consumer cannot legally obtain prescription pet medications from a retailer without a written, portable prescription from a veterinarian. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) advises veterinarians to honor a client's request for a prescription, provided that a valid veterinarian-client-patient relationship exists.
Federal legislation proposed in House Bill 1406 (“H.R. 1406” or “the Bill”) would require veterinarians to provide clients with written prescriptions for all pet medications, regardless of whether requested, and to inform clients of their right to have pet medications dispensed elsewhere.
In the workshop, the Commission seeks to examine issues related to the portability of pet medication prescriptions from practical, economic, and legal perspectives. The Commission invites public comment on questions relevant to this topic, including:
• How varied are current veterinarian practices with respect to providing written, portable prescriptions to clients?
• To what extent are consumers aware that they can request a portable prescription from their veterinarian and have the prescription dispensed elsewhere?
• Which states require prescription portability for pet medications? Which do not? Are there states in which a proposal for prescription portability for pet medications was rejected by the legislature and, if so, why?
• In states that do require prescription portability, what recourse do consumers have if a veterinarian refuses to provide a written, portable prescription?
• What evidence exists to support a need for federal legislation requiring veterinarians to provide written prescriptions to their clients?
• What price and non-price benefits can accrue to consumers from prescription portability for pet medications?
• What risks or inefficiencies may be posed by prescription portability for pet medications?
• Is there a need for federal legislation requiring veterinarians to notify clients that they have the right to fill their prescriptions at the pharmacy of their choice?
• Is it appropriate to deny veterinarians the ability to charge a fee or require a waiver of liability for providing a written prescription to clients?
• How might the passage of H.R. 1406 affect price, consumer choice, and other forms of competition in the pet medications market?
• How can the prices charged to consumers for pet medications by veterinary clinics and retailers best be quantified and compared?
• To what extent do retailer prices for pet medications affect the prices of medications sold at veterinary practices, or other aspects of veterinary clinic operations?
• To what extent would H.R. 1406 affect veterinarians' sales of pet medications?
• What compliance costs would veterinarians face if H.R. 1406 were enacted?
• How might the passage of H.R. 1406 affect pet medication distribution practices?
• Should possible amendments to H.R. 1406 be considered?
• Are there other factors that should be considered when analyzing the competition and consumer protection issues related to the portability of pet medication prescriptions?
Some restricted distribution and prescription portability issues existed in the contact lens industry at the time that Congress passed the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act (“FCLCA”), Public Law 108-164. Industry participants have noted both similarities and differences between the contact lens industry and the pet medications industry. The workshop will examine whether consumer experiences with the FCLCA might provide insights about the potential impact of H.R. 1406. The Commission invites public comment on questions relevant to this topic, including:
• What was the impact of the FCLCA, if any, to consumers?
• What was the impact of the FCLCA, if any, to optometrists and ophthalmologists?
• What was the impact of the FCLCA, if any, on entry into the contact lens industry?
• What was the impact of the FCLCA, if any, on innovation in the contact lens industry?
• What was the impact of the FCLCA, if any, to contact lens distribution practices?
• Are there significant similarities or differences between the contact lens industry and the pet medications industry, particularly with respect to industry distribution practices and issues of prescription portability? If so, how should those similarities or differences be taken into account in assessing the likely effects of H.R. 1406 compared to the FCLCA?
• Are there other factors that should be considered when analyzing the competition and consumer protection issues related to the FCLCA, and how consumer experiences with the FCLCA might provide insights about the potential impact of H.R. 1406?
Interested parties are invited to submit written comments electronically or in paper form. The deadline for receiving comments has been extended to November 1, 2012. Because paper mail addressed to the FTC is subject to delay due to heightened security screening, please consider submitting your comments in electronic form. Comments filed in electronic form should be submitted using the following Web link:
Comments should refer to “Pet Medications Workshop, Project No. P12-1201” to facilitate the organization of comments. Please note that your comment—including your name and your State—will be placed on the public record of this proceeding, including on the publicly accessible FTC Web site, at
A comment filed in paper form should include the “Pet Medications Workshop, Project No. P12-1201” reference both in the text and on the envelope, and should be mailed or delivered to the following address: Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, Room H-113 (Annex X), 600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW., Washington, DC 20580. The FTC is requesting that any comment filed in paper form be sent by courier or overnight service, if possible, because U.S. postal mail in the Washington area and at the Commission is subject to delay due to heightened security precautions. The FTC Act and other laws that the Commission administers permit the collection of public comments to consider and use in this proceeding as appropriate. The Commission will consider all timely and responsive public comments that it receives, whether filed in paper or electronic form. Comments received will be available to the public on the FTC Web site, to the extent practicable, at
By direction of the Commission.