In a recent statement by FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, M.D., he said the opioid epidemic and the misuse and abuse of these drugs remains his highest priority. As the crisis evolves, he said it is vital that the agency take an in-depth look at all the access points where these medications can be purchased.
Gottlieb raised the alarm about one-way people might access opioids: their pets. It seems as people are now stealing pain medication intended for man’s best friend.
“We recognize that opioids and other pain medications have a legitimate and important role in treating pain in animals – just as they do for people. But just like the opioid medications used in humans, these drugs have potentially serious risks, not just for the animal patients, but also because of their potential to lead to addiction, abuse and overdose in humans who may divert them for their own use,” Gottlieb said in the statement.
Gottlieb said there had been limited information for responsible opioid prescribing for veterinary professionals, and so the FDA has just developed a comprehensive checklist on what veterinarians need to look out for in this new wave of opioid fraud.
“The resource includes information on state and federal regulations, alternatives to opioids and how to properly safeguard and store opioids, as well as how to identify if a client or employee may be abusing opioids and take action with a safety plan.
While each state creates its own regulations for the practice of veterinary medicine within its borders, including regulations about secure storage of controlled substances like opioids, veterinarians should also follow professional standards set by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) in prescribing these products to ensure those who are working with these powerful medications understand the risks and their role in combatting this epidemic.
Veterinarians are also required to be licensed by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to prescribe opioids to animal patients, as are all healthcare providers when prescribing for use in humans.
These measures are in place to help ensure the critical balance between making sure animals can be humanely treated for their pain, while also addressing the realities of the epidemic of misuse, abuse and overdose when these drugs are diverted and used illegally by humans,” Gottlieb said.
According to the Courier-Journal, a dangerous trend is developing in the heartland of dying America, one where pet owners are harming their animals to get opioid prescriptions.
In one case, a Kentucky woman cut her retriever, Alice, with razors on multiple occasions in the attempt to get an opioid prescription. Heather Pereira, Alice’s owner, of Elizabethtown, tried to acquire a prescription for Tramadol. Veterinarians quickly caught onto the scheme and called law enforcement officers when they noticed Alice’s injuries appeared to be intentional.
Elizabethtown resident Heather Pereira remains on probation for intentionally cutting her golden retriever with a razor blade in order to get narcotics from a vet. The dog renamed Alice, has been removed from her care (Source/ Elizabethtown Police)
DEA Special Agent, Scott Brink, warned more than 200 Kentucky doctors — including dozens of veterinarians — during an August conference in Louisville to be extra vigilant for people hurting their animals in the attempt to acquire opioids, as it now seems man’s best friend is among the victims of the nation’s worst drug crisis.
A new study from the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus showed that 62 percent of veterinarians surveyed felt they had a significant role in preventing opioid abuse.
Senior instructor Liliana Tenney, who co-authored the report, said:
“This is significant for two reasons. These providers want to ensure the treatment of pets. If this is truly the case and pet owners are intentionally harming animals, that’s an animal rights issue.”
“If opioids are being prescribed and aren’t getting to the pets that need them because these drugs are being diverted, that’s a public health issue.”