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Veterinary Competition Hurting Consumers

April 13th, 2021 by Mike Vasilinda

A catch 22 in Florida law lets doctors begin a new remote relationship with a patient via telehealth, but veterinarians can’t do the same.

Under state law, a vet must have seen the animal patient in-person within the last year before meds can be prescribed remotely.

It’s a sign of competition at work in changing times.

We tuned into a virtual vet appointment with veterinarian Dr. Shadi Ireifej speaking to a client and her dog Echo, a nine year old terrier mix.

The session took less than 15 minutes.

Because Echo was a new patient Dr. Ireifej hasn’t seen personally seen before, he was prohibited by Florida law from prescribing any medication.

“When a pet needs a refill of medication that they really shouldn’t be without, heart medication, for example. Very common scenario. We forget to refill it. And now he needs a refill and we can’t by law do that,” said Dr. Ireifej.

But if Echo’s mom wanted to be seen by her doctor remotely, that doctor could prescribe every medication deemed necessary.

Legislation allowing vets to prescribe everything but controlled substances remotely has cleared three committees in the state Capitol, but the legislation has stalled.

“It’s about protecting market share for certain individuals,” said Skylar Zander with Americans for Prosperity.

Zander argues the restriction is all about money.

“In some rural communities, the might be an hour or two hours away, and so you are able to get instance service as a consumer and also protect your animal,” said Zander.

In a statement, The Florida Veterinary Association said the legislation: “Would lead to an increase in the misdiagnosis and mistreatment of Florida pets and livestock as well as potential delays in receiving the proper care they need.”

Dr. Ireifej said he is repeatedly called by people seeking prescription refills for their animals and says he has to refuse, even though his education has spanned more than a dozen years.

He also added he has treated 22 species of animals remotely, and not one of them has bitten him or gotten upset by the travel.

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