Vol. 33 Iss. 23 - July 10, 2017

Chapter 20
Emergency Regulation

Title of Regulation: 18VAC150-20. Regulations Governing the Practice of Veterinary Medicine (adding 18VAC150-20-174).

Statutory Authority: § 54.1-2400 of the Code of Virginia.

Effective Date: June 26, 2017, through December 25, 2018.

Agency Contact: Leslie L. Knachel, Executive Director, Board of Veterinary Medicine, 9960 Mayland Drive, Suite 300, Richmond, VA 23233, telephone (804) 367-4468, FAX (804) 527-4471, or email


Regulations for veterinarians prescribing controlled substances containing opioids are being promulgated as emergency regulations to address the opioid abuse crisis in Virginia. On November 16, 2016, State Health Commissioner Marissa Levine declared the opioid addiction crisis to be a public health emergency in Virginia. In a news conference about the opioid crisis, Governor McAuliffe noted that the declaration would "provide a framework for further actions to fight it, and to save Virginians' lives." One of those "further actions" is adoption of emergency regulations by the Board of Medicine and the Board of Nursing setting out rules for prescribing opioids and buprenorphine and by the Board of Dentistry for prescribing of opioids for acute pain. To ensure that opioids are not being abused and diverted for sale through veterinary prescribing, the Board of Veterinary Medicine has also adopted emergency regulations.

Section 2.2-4011 of the Code of Virginia authorizes an agency to adopt emergency regulations necessitated by an emergency situation upon consultation with the Attorney General, and the necessity for the action is at the sole discretion of the Governor. The declaration by Commissioner Levine is indeed evidence that such an emergency situation exists in the Commonwealth.

The emergency regulations for the management of acute pain include requirements for the evaluation of the patient, limitations on quantity and dosage, and recordkeeping. The regulations also provide requirements for prescribing an opioid beyond 14 days for chronic pain and certain chronic conditions and allow for prescribing of buprenorphine in a dosage, quantity, and formulation appropriate for an animal species and size.

18VAC150-20-174. Prescribing of controlled substances for pain or chronic conditions.

A. Evaluation of the patient and need for prescribing a controlled substance for pain.

1. For the purposes of this section, a controlled substance shall be a Schedules II through V drug, as set forth in the Drug Control Act (§ 54.1-3400 et seq. of the Code of Virginia), which contains an opioid.

2. Nonpharmacologic and non-opioid treatment for pain shall be given consideration prior to treatment with opioids. Prior to initiating treatment with a controlled substance, as defined, the prescriber shall perform a history and physical examination appropriate to the complaint and conduct an assessment of the patient's history as part of the initial evaluation.

3. If a controlled substance is necessary for treatment of acute pain, the veterinarian shall prescribe it in the lowest effective dose appropriate to the size and species of the animal for the least amount of time. The dose shall not exceed a seven-day supply, unless extenuating circumstances are clearly documented in the patient's record.

4. The veterinarian may prescribe a controlled substance for an additional seven days if medically necessary and consistent with an appropriate standard of care, and after a reevaluation of the patient as documented in the patient record.

B. In accordance with the accepted standard of care, a veterinarian may prescribe a controlled substance beyond 14 days for management of certain chronic conditions, such as chronic heart failure, chronic bronchitis, osteoarthritis, collapsing trachea, or related conditions. For treatment of chronic pain or a chronic condition with an opioid beyond 14 days, the treatment plan shall include measures to be used to determine progress in treatment, further diagnostic evaluations or modalities that might be necessary, and the extent to which the pain or condition is associated with physical impairment. For any prescribing of a controlled substance beyond 14 days, the patient shall be seen and reevaluated at least every six months, and the justification for such prescribing documented in the patient record.

C. Prior to prescribing or dispensing a controlled substance, the veterinarian shall document a discussion with the owner about the known risks and benefits of opioid therapy, the responsibility for the security of the drug, and proper disposal of any unused drug.

D. Continuation of treatment with controlled substances shall be supported by documentation of continued benefit from the prescribing. If the patient's progress is unsatisfactory, the veterinarian shall assess the appropriateness of continued use of the current treatment plan and consider the use of other therapeutic modalities.

E. Prescribing of buprenorphine for out-patient administration shall only occur in accordance with the following:

1. The dosage, quantity, and formulation shall be appropriate for the patient; and

2. The prescription shall not exceed a seven-day supply. Any prescribing beyond seven days shall be consistent with an appropriate standard of care and only after a reevaluation of the patient as documented in the patient record.

F. The medical record for prescribing controlled substances shall include signs or presentation of the pain or condition, a presumptive diagnosis for the origin of the pain or condition, an examination appropriate to the complaint, a treatment plan, and the medication prescribed to include the date, type, dosage, and quantity prescribed.

VA.R. Doc. No. R17-5103; Filed June 16, 2017, 9:35 p.m.