An uneasy truce between veterinarians and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) began to break down last year, when agents at the DEA’s Sacramento, California, office notified practitioners that the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) prohibited the transport and use of controlled drugs away from a “registered location,” such as a clinic. The law itself is not new; strict enforcement, on the other hand, generally has not been an issue in the past.
Section 822(e) of the CSA always has required a “separate registration” at “each principal place of business or professional practice.” Taken literally, the “separate registration” requirement effectively prohibits a veterinarian from transporting controlled substances in a vehicle or dispensing the drugs at a farm or other location away from the practitioner’s clinic or home base.
In an April 2012 letter from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) to the DEA’s Office of Diversion Control, the national association requested that the DEA “exercise enforcement discretion when investigating ambulatory veterinary practitioners who are licensed by the state to practice veterinary medicine and hold a valid DEA registration for their principal place of business,” a stopgap measure pending amendment of the CSA. The American Association of Equine Practitioners (AAEP) also supports efforts to exempt ambulatory veterinarians from the CSA requirements.
On April 12, H.R. 1528—the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act of 2013—was introduced in the House of Representatives. The proposed legislation would amend the CSA to modify the separate registration requirement and allow vets to “transport and dispense controlled substances in the usual course of veterinary practice at a site other than the registrant’s principal place of business or professional practice, so long as the site of dispensing is located in a state where the veterinarian is licensed to practice veterinary medicine.” H.R. 1528 subsequently was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce and the Committee on the Judiciary. In May a companion bill was introduced in the Senate. S. 950 was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.
In June, the Senate version of the bill was among 200-plus amendments proposed for the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013. The so-called “Farm Bill” was passed by the Senate on June 10 without the Veterinary Medicine Mobility Act amendment. Standalone versions of the legislation remain in committee.