The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced today that it intends to temporarily not enforce certain requirements in order to allow veterinarians to better utilize telemedicine to address animal health needs during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"The FDA recognizes the vital role veterinarians play in protecting public health. This pandemic has had impacts on many of our everyday lives and professions, and during this time, we need to provide veterinarians with the latitude to expand the use of telemedicine in the care of animals, not only pets but also the animals that produce our food," said FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D.
The agency has projected to temporarily suspend enforcement of portions of the federal veterinarian-client-patient relationship (VCPR) requirements relevant to certain FDA regulations. The VCPR is the professional relationship between the veterinarian, client and the animal patient.
The federal VCPR definition requires that veterinarians physically examine animal patients and/or make medically appropriate and timely visits to the location where the animal(s) are kept. Therefore, the federal VCPR definition cannot be met solely through telemedicine.
In order to help veterinarians utilize telemedicine to address animal health needs during the COVID-19 pandemic, the FDA does not intend to enforce the animal examination and premises visit portion of the VCPR requirements relevant to the FDA regulations governing Extralabel Drug Use in Animals and Veterinary Feed Directive (VFD) drugs.
This will allow veterinarians to prescribe drugs in an extra-label manner or authorize the use of VFD drugs without direct examination of or making visits to their patients, which will limit human-to-human interaction and potential spread of COVID-19 in the community.
"The FDA is providing the flexibility that will help veterinarians maintain the health of animals during the pandemic, while allowing for the social distancing that is so important in limiting the further spread of coronavirus disease across the country and the world," added Hahn.
The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation's food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.