Pharmacy Times looks at pets

May 15, 2017
Kristi Reimer Fender, News Channel Director

Kristi Reimer is editor of dvm360 magazine and news channel director for dvm360.com. Before taking over

Veterinary patients arent like human patients, authors say. Um, right.

Recently several of us in the dvm360 offices stumbled on an interesting article on the Pharmacy Times website titled “Understanding the Veterinary Patient.” It was a good read, and I'd encourage you to evaluate its merits for yourself.

In the meantime, here's the gist. The pharmacist authors, one a veterinary compounding specialist and one a regulatory expert, highlight the things human pharmacists need to consider when processing pet prescriptions amid the heavy volume of human scripts flowing through their practices every day.

“Currently pharmacists and pharmacy technicians have little to no formal education regarding our veterinary patients, although our responsibility to them is the same as our human patients,” they write. “We are seeing more pet prescriptions in day-to-day practice than we ever have in the past, and we need to be knowledgeable about how to dispense and counsel the pet owner.”

The obvious takeaway, which the authors manage to impart without condescension, is that animals metabolize drugs differently than humans do-and different species react to drugs in different ways from each other. The veterinarian is the expert on this, not the pharmacist. So if a pharmacist has a question about a drug or a dosage for a pet, he or she is legally, ethically and professionally obligated to pause, call the veterinarian and clarify as needed.

It seems like a no-brainer, but unauthorized changes happen- sometimes to the patient's harm-which the authors point out, pulling no punches. An individual pharmacist can be found liable in court if his or her negligence leads to patient illness or death, they say.

As well they should. But the more familiar I become with the issues surrounding pharmacists dispensing medication for animals, the more convinced I am that pharmacists are not, on the whole, careless, arrogant or obtuse-they are busy. The pharmacists I know personally who work at Walmart, Walgreens and the like deal with a staggering volume of work every day. As a result, they get very good at making quick decisions that are in their human patients' best interests. To stop and make a phone call or even look something up in a veterinary reference brings the flow to a screeching halt.

Yes, that's what pharmacists must do, and hopefully articles such as this one will raise awareness that it needs to be happening more than it is. But a little sympathy for their situation and a tendency toward collaboration rather than castigation will go a long way-and help protect pets as well.