Opioids for pets on the rise

There's another part of the opioid epidemic that isn’t getting much attention.

Fritz Mayer
Posted 2/13/19

PHILADELPHIA, PA — Scrutiny of opioid prescriptions for human beings has increased in recent years in reaction to the opioid and heroin crisis sweeping the country. But there is another part …

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Opioids for pets on the rise

There's another part of the opioid epidemic that isn’t getting much attention.

Posted


PHILADELPHIA, PA — Scrutiny of opioid prescriptions for human beings has increased in recent years in reaction to the opioid and heroin crisis sweeping the country. But there is another part of the problem that isn’t getting much attention: opioid prescriptions for pets.

A study published in the Journal of American Medical Association Open Network, published on January 15 (www.bit.ly/opioidsforpetstrr) found that in the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Veterinary Medicine (PSVM), between 2007 and 2017, visits increased by only 13% while opioid prescriptions for pets rose 41%.

In Pennsylvania, opioid prescriptions for pets are not monitored in the same way prescriptions for people are. In the case of PSVM, according to the study, any licensed veterinarian (intern, resident, or faculty) can use the hospital’s Drug Enforcement Administration number to order and prescribe opioids without reporting them to the Pennsylvania Prescription Drug Monitoring Program.

In Pennsylvania, opioid prescriptions for pets are not monitored in the same way prescriptions for people are.


The prescriptions at PSVM went not only to cats and dogs but other species of pets as well. “During the study period, the hospital veterinarians prescribed a total of 105,183,689 tablets of tramadol, 97,547 tablets of hydrocodone, 38,939 tablets of codeine, and 3,153 fentanyl patches to dogs (73.0%), cats (22.5%), and other species such as rabbits, birds and reptiles (4.5%).”

The results of the study led some experts to speculate that some of the enormous amount of opioid pills being prescribed to animals winds up being used by people. The authors of the study note that while programs in many states have been adopted to raise awareness of opioid addiction among doctors and dentists, those same programs don’t typically involve veterinarians.

Most states require reporting people’s opioid prescriptions to a prescription drug monitoring program (PDMP). The study notes, however, only 20 states require the reporting of opioid prescriptions for pets. The study also recommends changes to those monitoring programs.

This study involved only the practices at the PSVM, but, according to the authors, the study likely reflects the reality in many veterinary facilities around the state. “These findings highlight an opportunity to assess the risk associated with veterinarian opioid prescriptions and develop mitigation strategies, including expanding veterinary PDMP reporting nationally to safeguard public health,” reads the study.

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