To view the proposal titled "Writing the Script in Wisconsin," visit www.writingthescript.com.
MADISON, WIS. — Anticipated legislation that will force DVMs to issue client prescriptions or face up to $5,000 fines has the Wisconsin Veterinary Medical Association (WVMA) on the defensive.
While WVMA denounces an 11-page report by attorneys claiming state law grants DVMs a monopoly on drug sales, Executive Director Leslie Grendahl contends any repeal of practitioners' say-so on whether to script out or direct dispense invites prescription abuse and threatens veterinarians' control.
"Our legislative committee has met on this and what they're saying is there's a grave concern," she says. "The way this proposal is written, it's very punitive toward the veterinarian. We are now preparing a statement that we'll send to legislators, apprising them of our position. We're also sending a fax survey out to all of Wisconsin's veterinary clinics. We want to know if our members actually are refusing to write prescriptions."
The answer is yes, says attorney David Crass, who represents a coalition of livestock producers and pet owners.
As co-author of the proposal to amend the state's veterinary medical practice act in favor of statutory requirements that veterinarians script out, Crass contends his clients are losing their right to price-shop to DVMs deriving income by inflating prices on prescriptions.
That's not an issue in at least 20 other states already mandating prescription writing by practitioners, he adds.
"We have anecdotal stories and evidence of situations where producers have asked their veterinarians for written prescriptions, and they have been refused," Crass says. "We contend that its unprofessional conduct not to provide this."
Although Crass and his colleagues at Madison-based law firm Michael Best & Friedrich LLP have yet to find a sponsor for the proposal, a December vote by the Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation adopting the cause for its legislative agenda has legitimized the endeavor. With the state's largest farm organization on board, Crass remains confident lawmakers will react favorably to the measure.
"We're in the process of visiting with legislators, explaining the issues, and we know we'll find a sponsor," he says. "The only thing I foresee anyone having a problem with is the punitive action involved. It is a heavy-handed penalty, but there must be a hammer to encourage compliance."
Financial penalties aren't the proposal's only problem, Grendahl says. Apart from "outrageous" monetary fines, the proposal asks lawmakers to authorize the Wisconsin Attorney General or local district attorney to bring court action should a veterinarian refuse to comply with the legislation. Such a mandate fails to address animal health, public health and food safety, she adds.
"We want pharmacies to be responsible for reporting back to the veterinarian on how much was delivered to a client, and there's a concern that if a prescription is faxed, the client still will have the original script in hand to get a double order," Grendahl says. "A law forcing veterinarians to write prescriptions at the request of clients should not be this clear-cut. A lot should depend on the client and the practitioner's relationship with that client. To me, this plan is irresponsible, and to be honest, we have yet to find one veterinarian who doesn't already issue prescriptions."