By GalTime's Consumer Watchdog Mary Schwager
Here's the scene: You're sitting in your vet's office and he says your dog needs a prescription. You realize you're in a dilemma: You know you can get your pet's medicine cheaper online or in a drug store. But you feel sheepish asking your kind veterinarian, who loves your pet, for a paper prescription. This is the vet who has taken care of your family's pets for years. He's even driven through a snowstorm to see your beloved furry one through an emergency. You want your vet to stay in business, but you have to watch your bottom line. It can be an uncomfortable moment. So what do you do?
The Federal Trade Commission is actually looking into making this situation. The FTC wants to hear from pet owners, veterinarians, and people in the pet medication industry. The Feds are taking public comments about "pet prescription portability."
Pet Prescription Portability: What Does It Mean?
There's a bill in Congress, HR 1406 - The Fairness to Pet Owners Act of 2011, that would require vets to give you paper prescriptions for pet meds, even if you don't request one. That would take that uneasy moment in the vet's office away.
Right now there are no federal rules regulating what vets have to do, it's governed only on the state level. Some states already have pet prescription portability laws on the books, other states lack rules and at least one state says a vet doesn't have to write you a paper prescription.
Pet meds are big business! It's estimated that 62 percent of American households own a pet, and pet owners in the United States spend nearly $7 billion annually on pet medications. "American consumers spend a tremendous amount of money on medications for their pets every year. High prices on these medications mean that consumers have less money for necessities. It's important that these medications are safe and effective, and that pet owners get the benefits of a fair and robust marketplace," said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz.
The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) says there's no need to pass a law like this because vets should certainly write a paper prescription if a client asks.
What do you think? This is your chance to let the Feds know your opinion. The FTC will be looking at:
How are pet medications distributed to consumers?
What are the business rationales for various pet medication distribution practices?
How do these practices affect prices to consumers?
How do these practices affect product supply and quality?
How do these practices affect entry into the pet medications industry?
What product safety issues exist with respect to these practices?
Are there other factors that should be considered when analyzing the competition and consumer protection issues related to the distribution of pet medications?
You can submit your comments on paper or in an electronic format through September 14, 2012. Comments can be submitted electronically by clicking here . Written comments should be mailed or delivered to: Federal Trade Commission, Office of the Secretary, Room H-113 (Annex X), 600 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Washington, DC 20580. A complete agenda for the workshop will be issued shortly and posted on the FTC's website.
And if you happen to be in Washington DC on Tuesday, October 2, 2012, the FTC is hosting a free workshop to examine the ways pet medications are distributed to consumers , and how these practices affect consumer choice and price competition.
More information about distribution practices in the pet medications industry and prescription portability for pet medications can be found on the FTC's website in the Federal Register notice announcing the workshop .
What do you think? Tell us in the comments!
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