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Cost of Veterinary Services May Rise

Article Date: 11th December 2005

The new legislation which requires veterinary surgeons to provide prescriptions for medicines free of charge to clients may have a negative impact on the overall cost of veterinary care.

New legislation came into force recently which requires vets to provide clients with a prescription for the drugs their animal needs if the client asks for one. The vet is not allowed to charge for this service and the client may then take the prescription and get their drugs elsewhere.

It is possible to obtain prescribed drugs quite cheaply on the internet since such businesses do not have the large overheads which a veterinary practice must carry. Therefore it is envisaged that clients may take the option of getting cheaper drugs from such providers and leave the vets without what has been an important source of business revenue.

On the face of it this may seem like a good idea to many members of the public but it might actually end up increasing the overall cost of veterinary care. If the veterinary practices can no longer gain so much income from the sale of medicines then to maintain the business the price of other services must be increased. That means that the costs of consultation and other services may rise. Clients will still need to obtain the medicines for their pet and it is unlikely that the reduced cost of medicines obtained elsewhere will completely offset the increase in other charges. So overall the costs may actually rise rather than fall if many clients take up this opportunity to shop around for medicines.

Of course, if overall the price of veterinary care increases then many pet owners may find that it is beyond their means and this will have a negative impact upon the welfare of their animals. Also if veterinary practices are unable to make up for the lost income from the sale of drugs then the businesses may not be financially viable and may close. This will almost certainly lead to even higher charges as the big practices gain more clients while the smaller practices close. In less affluent areas of the country there could even be the situation that there is little or no veterinary cover because it is impossible to run a profitable business.

We will have to wait and see what happens now that this legislation is in force but it may have a very negative impact on veterinary businesses.

Slaves to the market: Veterinary Record vol 157 no 24 p 753

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