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Humans May Be Abusing Opioids Prescribed for Pets, FDA Warns




Agency issues recommendations for vets.

Some people may be misusing opioid pain medications that were prescribed for pets, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

To address the issue, the agency has developed a new resource containing information and recommendations for veterinarians who stock and administer opioids, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb said in a statement. 

“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 wrote. “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.”

Among the recommendations the agency announced for veterinarians last week is “a reminder about the importance of following all state and federal regulations on prescribing opioids to animals for pain management and how to properly safeguard and store these medications to ensure they remain in the legal supply chain,” according to Gottlieb.


The FDA also said it is:

  • Recommending that veterinarians use alternatives to opioids for pain management when appropriate.
  • Educating pet owners on the safe storage and disposal of opioids.
  • Advising veterinarians to develop a safety plan in the event they encounter a situation involving opioid diversion or clients seeking opioids under the guise of treating their pets.
  • Taking steps to help veterinarians spot the signs of opioid abuse.

“As medical professionals, veterinarians have an opportunity to partner with the FDA and others to take on this public health crisis,” Gottlieb said. “We encourage them to continue to work with their clients and both local and national organizations, such as their state board of veterinary medicine and AVMA, to join in the fight against this tragic epidemic. In turn, we’re committed to continuing to support these professionals in their efforts to curb the diversion of opioids that are meant to manage animal pain.”



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