Proposed Legislation To Help Prevent Opioid Fraud At Vets’ Offices

Lori Ennis
by Lori Ennis
As more attention is drawn to the opioid addiction crisis, a new angle has come into the issue: humans using their pets as ways to ‘score’ their fixes.

In Richmond, Virginia, lawmakers are looking at legislation that would address the growing opioid crisis in the country, and more specifically, how to help innocent animals that addicts are injuring in order to have their prescribed medicines.

Senator Bill Stanley from Moneta, Virginia, said that veterinarians across the state are telling him that people are purposely injuring animals in order to take them to the vet in hopes of opioid prescriptions being given. The humans have no intention of giving their injured pets the drugs; instead, they are feeding their own addictions.

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Veterinarians may prescribe drugs like morphine or fentanyl for dogs with cancer, and often prescribe benzodiazepines for things like anxiety. Valium and tramadol (for fear of thunderstorms/loud noises and pain) are also hot drugs that people are looking to use for themselves, as they are drugs that both humans and animals have in common for treatments.

Sometimes pets’ weights, particularly dogs’ weights, may mean that as many as 100-180 tramadol tablets a month can be prescribed. When my golden retriever was thought to have cancer, we got 75 tramadol tablets every two weeks for her, for her pain, and our vet didn’t even blink an eye. Of course, he knew we were not abusing our dog, and she was being treated for pain, but that’s not always an easy case to see when a human brings an injured animal in and acts the part of the concerned pet owner.

The bill, which is being supported by the Virginia Veterinary Medical Association would require that a veterinarian could only prescribe opiates onsite for no more than seven days, and any more would need to be prescribed by a local pharmacist. In those situations, the human then is entered into a system that monitors their prescription pickup, the Prescription Monitoring Program.

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Senator Stanley says then a licensed pharmacist is able to see that someone is not simply doctor (or vet) shopping in search of more pills.

The bill will make sure that veterinarians would still be able to treat emergencies and minor injuries/surgical recovery within the seven-day window, as no one wants to make it hard for veterinarians to lose the option of treating their patients effectively. It will simply make a drug addict not have as easy access to the pills, and more, hopefully, deter people from looking to injure their pets simply for large doses of medicines that will support their habits.

The bill was unanimously passed by the state Senate and one House committee also cleared it unanimously. It stands before the full House in Virginia for consideration and voting.

Lori Ennis
Lori Ennis

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