CVMA Ethical Drugs Sales Position Statement

Issue: Should veterinarians sell ethical drugs — like Advantage, Frontline, and Program — to retail companies that resell these products, when this practice is contrary to the drug manufacturer’s sales policy?

Drug manufacturers’ sales policies restrict the sale of ethical drugs to veterinarians only and require that the veterinarians treat these products like legend drugs. This requires a veterinary-client-patient relationship prior to selling it to the client. Generally this agreement between the veterinarian and the manufacturer is verbal, but sometimes it may be in written form signed by both parties.

These sales policies have raised both ethical and liability concerns related to the requests veterinarians are receiving to sell these products to distributors. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has already addressed these concerns in its Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics, under VI, THERAPIES, subsection D:

It is unethical for veterinarians to use or permit the use of their names, signatures or professional status in connection with the resale of ethical products in a manner which violates those directions or conditions specified by the manufacturer to ensure the safe and efficacious use of the product.

There may be a liability issue if ethical drugs are distributed contrary to the manufacturer’s sales policy and are used inappropriately, causing harm or death to an animal, which could trigger a serious liability question for the veterinarian. Insurance companies may or may not cover such activities. Warrantees of the products only apply if the manufacturer’s sales policies are upheld.

Policy:  Based on the AVMA’s Code of Ethics, it is unethical for veterinarians to sell ethical drugs to retail distributors in violation of the manufacturer’s sales policy. The sale of ethical drugs by veterinarians to retail distributors is not illegal in California; however, it violates manufacturers’ sales policies that veterinarians agree to when they purchase these products. Veterinarians who sell these products to distributors may be exposed to liability and warranty issues. Therefore, the California Veterinary Medical Association recommends that veterinarians should not sell ethical dugs contrary to the manufacturer’s sales policies.


Ethical Product: An over-the counter product for which the manufacturer has voluntarily limited the sale to veterinarians. “Ethical products” (drugs) are sold only to veterinarians as a condition of sale that is specified in a sales agreement or on the product label.

Legend/ Prescription/Dangerous Drug:A drug that is restricted by federal law to use by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian, according to section 503(f) of the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. The law requires that such drugs be labeled with the statement: “Caution, federal law restricts this drug to use by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian.”In California, a legend drug cannot be prescribed/dispensed without a veterinary-client-patient relationship, during which the veterinarian has examined the animal within the past 12 months.

Manufacturer’s Sales Policy:In relation to such products as Advantage, Frontline, and Program, the manufacturer requires a veterinary-client-patient-relationship prior to sale.

Over the Counter (OTC) Drugs: Any drug that can be labeled with adequate direction to enable it to be used safely and properly by a consumer who is not a medical professional.

Join the CVMA

As a CVMA member, you’ll have access to outstanding benefits and services.

View the benefits of membership»