ACT Veterinarians’ rights to dispense

01 Jun 2023
Editorial by Dr Michael Hayward, ACT Division President.
Veterinarians’ rights to dispense

A colleague recently asked me to send her a copy of the current status of veterinarian’s rights and responsibilities regarding dispensing prescription only drugs, and I thought others might want easy access to this information. Please share it, or a relevant summary, with practice staff, especially receptionists, so they can answer client enquiries with a knowledge of the law as well as your practice policy.

This information is derived from discussions with the Office of the Chief Pharmacist, of the ACT, including the Chief Pharmacist himself, the ACT Veterinary Practitioner’s Board, and Division. It was first circulated in the first half of 2022.

For the last 12 months the ACT Veterinary Practitioner’s Board and AVA ACT have been seeking clarification from the CT Chief Pharmacist about a veterinarian’s right to dispense medication and have just received a response to our questions and suggestions. This confirms many of our understandings and provides clarification in important areas, including that some activities that veterinarians may have been performing are, in fact, illegal. A summary follows.

1. Veterinarians have the right to administer, prescribe and supply pharmacy medicines (S4 and S8 drugs.

  • Supply may only occur in the context of a consultation. The Veterinary Practitioner’s Board proposed, and the Chief Pharmacist agreed, that consultation includes
    • Face to face at a veterinary practice
    • Face to face at a farm or residence
    • A telemedicine consultation
    • A discussion with another practitioner about a case
    • A discussion with an owner about the need for re-supply of a medicine, in which case the veterinarian must have access to and have reviewed the relevant clinical records
  • “ACT Health and the ACT Veterinary Practitioners Board consider that for a consultation to have occurred, a veterinary practitioner must take all reasonable steps to satisfy themselves that a therapeutic need for the specific drug is established, and they must document those steps”.

2. This means that for a veterinarian to re-supply medication (for example, heart drugs) for a patient of that practice, the veterinarian must take all reasonable steps to satisfy themselves that a need exists, and that supply is appropriate. This process of review of records and discussion with the owner must be conducted by the veterinarian, and not another staff member, and must be documented in the medical record.

3. The same applies for a veterinarian to meet a request from an owner who is. for example, a client of another practice and visiting the area – the veterinarian must either speak with the owner’s normal veterinarian and / or seek and review the animal’s medical records. It is not sufficient to rely on a copy of clinical records supplied by the owner. The conclusion of this investigation may be that the veterinarian needs to examine the animal. The process of investigation must be performed by the veterinarian and documented.

4. Under the Medicines, Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2008 veterinary practitioners are not authorised to dispense. Therefore, the supply of medicine by a veterinarian on the basis of prescription from another veterinarian is illegal.

5. Supply of medicines between veterinary practices is illegal.

  • If a practice has run out of a medicine or does not normally stock a medicine, it cannot be supplied to the practice by another practice, and it cannot be supplied to the practice or an owner on prescription.
  • The only route of supply is for the veterinarian to convince themselves that supply to an owner for use in their pet is justified as above, including review of the medical record and or discussion with the treating veterinarian, and documentation of the supply and the decision-making process.

6. Supply of medicines to research institutions

  • “Scientifically qualified persons” (a dentist, doctor, pharmacist, veterinary practitioner; or a person who has been awarded a doctorate for scientific studies) employed at a research institution can order, obtain and possess all medicines (other than controlled medicines). Controlled medicines can be ordered and held by people with a “controlled medicine and research licence”. (Regs Sections 430-441)