Drugs for our pets is becoming ‘big business.’ In the past, I’ve reported on medical marijuana, which is legal in 23 states and is now being used to assist in alleviating pain for our older cats and dogs. But should other more potent pain-killing drugs also be administered to our pet owners? Tramadol, for instance is an opioid analgesic pain killer that’s prescribed for cats and dogs, but unfortunately it's being misused by drug addicts.
Several disturbing cases of pet abuse have health care officials worried, and Tramadol appears to be the root cause. In Oregon, dozens of dogs were found in squalid conditions where a police raid uncovered 100,000 pills.
Another case reported in Kentucky cited a woman accused of cutting her dog with a razor, again in her attempt to abscond with the pain pills prescribed for the pet.
In Arizona, Dr. Brian Serbin, DVM, at Ingleside Animal Hospital says several years ago they did see a few cases of people trying to shop their animals around for prescriptions.
“My practice manager has had conversations in the past with other practice managers, warning us about possible people bringing animals around. Looking for specific drugs,” Dr. Serbin said.
Serbia noted that a ‘red flag’ is raised when a pet owner requests a prescription to the state pharmacy board, but unfortunately that requirement changed a few years back. Dr. Mike Sorum, DVM, president-elect of the Arizona Veterinary Medical Association, says that group backed the change.
“Drug diversion is not a problem in Arizona as far as veterinary medicine goes,” Sorum said.
He added, “for that reason, the reporting was a burden on many vets. And he adds, they still have strict guidelines.”
"Getting a pet prescription is not cheap or easy," Dr. Sorum also explains. “If you take your pet into a veterinarian, all the costs for diagnostic tests to examinations may cost from hundreds to thousands of dollars.” He says that means they also watch for people who repeatedly call for refills.
“If people are calling for meds and we think they should have plenty of meds left over, we will look to see what the situation is,” Dr. Serbin said.
New York enacts rules
Differing from Arizona, the state of New York is taking action to curb this abuse. New rules were recently passed that restrict the manner in which Tramadol is prescribed.
Veterinarian Dr. Lexi Becker cited a new regulation that came out in January of this year. It basically states that “no longer will people be able to just waltz into a veterinarian’s office and demand another prescription of Tramadol for any sort of animal injury, as use of the drug is now much more closely monitored by state regulators.”
“There’s a new regulation. . .for New York State that basically restricts how long you can prescribe it initially, so there’s only a seven-day course that you can initially prescribe,” Dr. Becker added.
“We are very, very strict about following the rules as to how quickly they can have a refill. We will only give certain amounts of refills. We’ll only give how much the patient should be receiving.”
Please weigh in . . .
So readers, what are your thoughts about this serious epidemic? Should more states follow the New York model, or should they take the wait-and-see position of Arizona?