Veterinary clinics are bound by very strict rules and regulations when dispensing and selling medications. These rules can be difficult for our reception staff to explain to customers that come to the clinic to purchase a product assuming they can do so without having a veterinarian see their animal. We understand that these rules can seem inconvenient but they exist to protect the well-being of the pets we are treating and we are obligated to abide by them.
Grand Haven Animal Hospital and Dr. Sherrill are licensed through the State of Michigan. Without that license we are not permitted to practice veterinary medicine. In addition to state licensing, we are also required to abide by the AVMA Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics. The difficulty lies in the fact that the Veterinarians Act is not a license for a veterinary clinic to engage in retail but is rather a license to practice veterinary medicine and as such, sale of retail items is considered a type of veterinary service which is unlike a retail store.
This means that as veterinarians we have more legal responsibility and special obligations when selling or dispensing medications. We are potentially liable for any mishap that may occur as a result of dispensing of any product.
Any product or medication that is a prescription only medication by law requires a prescription from a veterinarian, which in turn requires us to have a valid Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR). A VCPR is required for us to sell or dispense medication to a customer. A veterinarian is expected to make a clinical judgment “based on knowledge obtained by personally performing a timely physical examination on the animal”. This essentially means that in order for a clinic to sell a client medication, a veterinarian must have examined the animal within a reasonable period of time to have a valid VCPR.
As veterinarians we are obligated to assume the responsibility for making clinical judgments on the health of the animal and the need for medical treatment, and in doing so we must have sufficient knowledge of the animals to initiate at least a general or preliminary diagnosis. We also have to be available for a follow up evaluation if there is a treatment failure or adverse reaction. Along with this are several other obligations once we have established a VCPR. Clients have to agree to follow the veterinarian’s instructions if they wish to purchase the medication from a veterinary clinic.
As mentioned earlier, we do understand that these regulations can seem inconvenient, but they are regulations and we are bound to follow them. Not doing so puts our license and ability to practice in jeopardy and we cannot take this risk.