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AVMA: Pharmacists Need Veterinary Schooling

The House of Delegates will consider a resolution calling for the education of pharmacists who dispense animal drugs.

The AVMA House of Delegates convenes in Denver in July 2014.

Ken Niedziela

Suggested Veterinary Products

The American Veterinary Medical Association thinks pharmacists should learn more about veterinary drugs as online and brick-and-mortar stores capture a greater share of the pet medications market.

The AVMA board of directors is recommending that the House of Delegates approve a resolution calling for veterinary pharmacology courses in pharmacy school and related continuing education classes for professional druggists.

The idea, one of four resolutions scheduled for discussion in July at the AVMA convention in Boston, aims to reduce pet medication errors and improve communication between pharmacists and veterinarians.

A 2012 survey conducted by the Oregon Veterinary Medical Association found many instances of pharmacists changing prescribed doses of pet medications or substituting a different product without the veterinarian’s authorization. In some cases, the actions led to an animal’s death, the survey found.

The issue has become more pronounced as pharmacies large and small, including mass market retailers Walmart and Target, move into veterinary prescriptions. The market research firm Packaged Facts in 2013 reported that veterinarians still sold a majority of dog and cat medications—an estimated 58 percent—but that sellers on the human side were doing a brisk and growing business.

Besides urging wider education of pharmacists, Resolution 8:

  •  Encourages pharmacists to consult with “prescribing veterinarians individually to discuss any information needed regarding a prescription to be filled.”
  •  States that “Licensed pharmacists should have a solid understanding of their roles and responsibilities for counseling and educating clients when filling a veterinary prescription.”
  •  Urges veterinarians to “avoid unclear abbreviations on prescriptions” and “consider including statements such as ‘no substitutions’ and ‘dispense as written’ on prescriptions to help avoid unintended medication substitutions or alterations of dosages.”

The pharmacy industry recognizes the potential disconnect between druggists and veterinarians.

A one-sentence policy of the American Pharmacists Association states, “APhA encourages pharmacists and student pharmacists to become more knowledgeable about veterinary drugs and their usage.”

Learning about veterinary drugs is not required of pharmacy students, but a number of schools cover the subject in elective courses, said American Pharmacists Association spokeswoman Michelle Spinnler.

“The University of Florida program has a large post-graduate program and the University of Wisconsin’s pharmacy and veterinary schools have partnered to offer an online course for pharmacists,” Spinnler added.

The American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy has weighed in, too. The group’s Professional Affairs Committee in April issued a final draft report titled “Producing Practice-Ready Pharmacy Graduates in an Era of Value-Based Healthcare.”

“Veterinary pharmacy services are increasing in the United States across all practice settings, and the knowledge and skills necessary to treat our animal patients may be another opportunity for academic and clinical partnerships,” the report reads in part.

Other measures headed to the House of Delegates include:

  • Resolution 7: The policy on the use of random-source dogs and cats for research, testing and education would be revised to emphasize the importance of ensuring the animals’ good welfare, said Kimberly May, DVM, MS, the AVMA’s assistant director of professional and public affairs. The AVMA board of directors recommended its approval.
  •  Resolution 9: The Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics would be revised slightly “in response to concerns expressed by AVMA legal counsel and other considerations,” the board reported.
  •  Resolution 10: The New Hampshire Veterinary Medical Association is requesting “a system for voting transparency on all questions and elections addressed by the House of Delegates.”

“Voting transparency will allow all AVMA members to know how representatives voted on all issues and therefore be able to make informed decisions regarding their representation at the AVMA,” the resolution states.

“Transparency helps to remove suspicion and promotes trust on all levels.”

The House of Delegates uses electronic voting. The results are tabulated and reported but are not broken down by delegate.

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