FDA Warns of People Using Pets to get Opioids

The US Food and Drug Administration has raised alarm about one way people might access opioids to misuse and abuse their pets

The US Food and Drug Administration has raised alarm about one way people might access opioids to misuse and abuse their pets

Despite their efforts to mediate legal access to opioid medication, overdose-induced tragedy still takes place; the agency believes that pet prescriptions may be part of the reason why.

Last Wednesday, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb published a statement online highlighting a rarely considered access point for illicit access to opioid medications.

Health care providers-that is, those who care for humans-tend to have ample resources for identifying and blocking drug-seeking behaviors. The FDA is also recommending vets use alternatives to opioids for pain management and educating pet owners on the safe storage and disposal of opioids.

While any health care provider can take advantage of these trainings, we recognize there hasn't been a lot of information tailored specifically for veterinary medicine.

As the opioid crisis rages on, the FDA said it has developed a resource guide on what veterinarians need to know about responsible opioid prescribing.

"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", Gottlieb said.

"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".

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Drugs prescribed for suffering animals are "generally derived from morphine", according to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA).

Currently, there is just one opioid approved for use in animals, Recuvyra, which is a form of fentanyl - the drug that has been the cause of thousands of deaths in the USA, and was even used to kill an inmate via lethal injection in Nebraska last week. Because of the ongoing opioid epidemic, more and more manufacturers are avoiding the marketing of such products to avoid the misuse and abuse by its users.

Veterinarians, beware - the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) wants you to keep an eye out for owners taking opioids prescribed to their pets. The FDA is calling on vets to follow all state and federal regulations when prescribing opioids for pain management in animals.

In it, 13 percent of the veterinarians were aware of an animal owner who had intentionally made an animal ill or injured, or seem to be ill or injured to obtain opioid medications.

The opioid crisis in the USA has been big news in recent years, drawing public attention to problems surrounding how we use and abuse pain-killers.

"We know that licensed veterinarians share our concerns and are committed to doing their part to ensure the appropriate use of prescription opioids", says Gottlieb. Government health services responded by issuing a five-point strategy for "front line" members of the medical community, providing support for addiction treatment, advising alternatives to opioids, and promoting research partnerships.

"As medical professionals, veterinarians have an opportunity to partner with the FDA and others to take on this public health crisis", Gottlieb said. However, he is now asking veterinarians to join the efforts as well. Because there are very few approved medications for animals, vets are forced to prescribe Recuvyra, a human opioid medication, when the animal is in pain. We'll have more to announce in the coming weeks. The new recommendations don't require the vets to dig into an owner's medical history.

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