Report on Consultation
Consultation Period: September 12, 2019 to November 4, 2019
Submissions: 108 Submissions (College Consultation); 252 Responses (Asking Canadians)
What is the Issue?
The overarching requirements for the sale of drugs in Canada are established by both the federal and provincial governments. Here in Ontario, the laws governing the sale of drugs by licensed veterinarians are contained in the Veterinarians Act and Regulation 1093, as well as further outlined in College policy.
Outside the strict framework set for the sale of drugs, there are a variety of non-drug veterinary products that are used by licensed veterinarians in the care or promotion of the health of animals. Historically, Council has interpreted the Veterinarians Act and Regulation 1093 to imply that the sale of non-drug veterinary products is to be held to the same standard as the sale of drugs, inclusive of requiring a veterinary prescription. However, through recent policy development and consultation, Council has determined that the College can be more permissive when it comes to non-drug veterinary products as long as certain legislative requirements are met.
To this effect, at its June 2019 meeting Council approved a proposed draft Policy Statement – Sale of Non-Drug Veterinary Products for circulation and consultation. The proposed draft Policy Statement outlined the expectations that a licensed veterinarian is expected to meet when selling a non-drug veterinary product to a client for the purpose of caring for or promoting the health of an animal(s), inclusive of providing the scope and context in which non-drug veterinary products can be sold. In the interest of continuing to protect the public interest, the proposed draft Policy Statement also outlined certain non-drug veterinary products that have been determined to pose a higher risk to both animal and human health and, therefore, continue to require a veterinary prescription.
Why is it Important
Ensuring that the public has access to safe and quality veterinary medicine is an essential component of the College’s mandate. The ability to procure safe and effective products for the treatment of an animal(s) is an important part of this system. However, the College must continue to ensure that any product sold to the public by a veterinarian for the purpose of caring for or promoting the health of an animal(s) is done so in a way that meets all applicable regulations, standards, and policies.
The draft policy statement was sent for public consultation for a 45-day period during which members of the College and members of the public were asked to provide their feedback. The draft policy statement and accompanying survey were also circulated by Asking Canadians, which is an online research community that conducts market research on Canadian consumers.
What we Heard and How We Responded – College Consultation
- Confusion around the requirement for recent and sufficient knowledge: There were several comments related to whether the sale of non-drug veterinary products would continue to require recent and sufficient knowledge gained by a premise visit or physical examination.
- Confusion around why veterinarians would continue to require a VCPR to sell a non-drug veterinary product: There were several comments that questioned why a veterinarian must have a valid VCPR to sell a non-drug veterinary product when they can be sold freely at retail outlets.
- Concern that the policy would influence the public’s purchasing decisions: There were several comments that indicated concern that the policy statement would cause more client to purchase products from retailers instead of veterinary clinics which would increase risk to animals.
- Belief that the risk associated with some non-drug veterinary products did not warrant a VCPR: There were several comments that suggested that the risk associated with some non-drug veterinary products was so low that they should be able to be sold without a VCPR.
- Confusion around what changes were being made: Some respondents were not clear as to how this policy statement would change current practice requirements.
- Difficulty in understanding: A number of respondents found the policy statement confusing and difficult to understand. A lot of this confusion seemed to stem from what qualified as a non-drug veterinary product.
In light of the feedback received during the consultation phase, College staff made a number of revisions to the proposed policy statement in an attempt to provide greater clarity, in particular related to the higher level of expectation associated with professional practice. These revisions, along with all of the consultation feedback received, was brought forward for Council review and consideration.
The following quotes, summarized from comments received, reflect suggestions received through the College consultation:
Does a "non drug veterinary product" include prescription diets? Does it include dental products, like toothpaste, or "Healthy Mouth"? What about "Feliway". Currently, these products are on the shelves in our waiting area and any client can pick them up without discussion with a veterinarian. As I do not think your description of a Non-drug veterinary product is very precise, I find it hard to answer this survey. What is the definition of selling "a nondrug veterinary product without a prescription"? It seems that everything that has been described is the same as selling it with a prescription. I am unsure how this policy changes how we dispense "non-drug veterinary products", unless you refer to things like pet food, toothpaste, treats, chews, shampoos.
To be honest I am not sure if it will protect public interest. It does make it somewhat easier for a veterinarian to prescribe a product that doesn't have a DIN to non-clients however it also isn't clear as to what products would count. Pesticides (like Advantage and Advantix) are now available in pet stores, but I have personally seen adverse reactions to such products. The purpose of a VCPR is to have time to discuss such problems with clients while also ensuring that the product is within the best interests of the pet, that is difficult to do with over the counter sales and also lessens the importance of a VCPR which while not in the public interest is certainly something that as a veterinarian I struggle with showing the importance of every single day.
The protection of public interest would not change with this policy, as not much does change with its adoption. As mentioned by others, without a list of what non-veterinary products, it will be really difficult to predict the impact of this policy on patients, clients and veterinarians alike.
Since we cannot dispense (for example) Advantage for cats without an existing VPCR, and this product is now becoming available in stores over the counter, I think we are absolving ourselves of risk by not dispensing the non-drug product but also potentially letting those pets be exposed to increase risk of owners choosing/applying medications incorrectly as we are not involved in the process. In that case it may be appropriate to allow us to dispense without a VPCR IF the client purchased the whole box (with label instructions, dose etc) and were advised by veterinary staff on the proper use/weight dose.
It might be helpful to clarify the types of products that would not follow under either this policy or the prescription policy, if they exist? For example, to address that certain animal supplies are normally sourced without veterinary advice and guidance.
What we Heard and How We Responded – Asking Canadians
Asking Canadians is an online research community that conducts market research on Canadian consumers. Because the topic of non-drug veterinary products (NDVPs) is one that would have a public impact, the College felt that it was important to gain an understanding of the consumer (non-industry public) perspective on purchasing NDVPs, including where consumers purchase the products from, considerations that come into play, and assumptions and expectations that they may have in order to provide insight and guidance for Council’s consideration of this topic. Asking Canadians provides a small incentive for consumers to participate in their surveys. The College targeted small animal owners in Ontario who had decision-making authority regarding purchasing pet products and services as its target demographic. Respondents were provided with the opportunity to review the draft Policy Statement: Sale of Non-Drug Veterinary Products for at least a minute prior to taking part in the survey. From this survey, the College was able to determine that:
61% indicated that they would prefer to purchase them from a retail facility while 39% of respondents indicated that they would prefer to purchase NDVPs from veterinary clinics.
When asked what the main reason was for purchasing from a retail facility, 78% indicated that potential risks these products may pose to the animal such as side effects were very important and 58% indicated that price was very important.
When asked what the main reason was for purchasing from a veterinary clinic, 79% indicated that potential risks these products may pose to the animal such as side effects were important and 34% indicated that price was very important.
When asked how likely they are assuming to that the product has been assessed for the suitability of their pet when purchasing from a veterinary clinic, 63% indicated that they were very likely.
These survey findings were brought forward for Council review and consideration.
I want to be informed of all precautions when administering a product and feel a veterinarian clinic will be best for this
There is a higher standard of record keeping and a viable means of ensuring accountability over retail salespeople
Often pets lack getting what they should get as the prices in the veterinary clinics are very high and being able to buy from cheaper source such as Amazon.ca is better and can help pets stay healthier as owners have a choice of where and when they can buy it.
Allowing retail salespersons, with only retail experience, often in their first job, to recommend any product that may have risk to my pet is totally unacceptable and I would never be in favour of this.
There are items that I would prefer to buy from my vet, based on my animals needs. That said while I did say yes there are products such as food that I would prefer to buy from a pet store
I think you should not have to buy them from a vet because it basically gives them a monopoly on the products and you have to work within the vets time line and at times go out of your way to get them.
Council December 2019 Decision
Council reviewed the consultation feedback and updated draft Policy Statement on the Sale of Non-Drug Veterinary Products at its December 2019 meeting and directed that the draft policy statement be returned to staff for further amendments and the development of an associated guide.
Council March 2020 Decision
Council reviewed the amended draft Policy Statement on the Sale of Non-Drug Veterinary Products and associated guide at its March 2020 and directed that the draft policy statement and circulated for additional public consultation to assure public understanding.
Executive Committee April 2020 Decision
In April 2020, the draft Policy Statement on the Sale of Non-Drug Veterinary Products and associated guide were brought forward to the College’s Executive Committee to consider publication without additional consultation in order to aid veterinarians in offering services to their clients during the Covid-19 pandemic. The Executive Committee reviewed these documents and approved them for publication with minor amendments.Policy Statement Sale of Non-Drug Veterinary Products
This consultation is now closed.