San Antonio doctor suing state for right to dispense medication to patients directly

Austin-based doctor also suing state

SAN ANTONIO – A San Antonio doctor is suing the state of Texas to overturn a law that prevents doctors from dispensing medication from their own offices.

“It’s just the hassle — the time it takes and the waiting,” said Veronica Saldana, a glaucoma patient, about getting her medicine from a pharmacy.

If she misses a day or two of taking her drops, the pressure in her eye could spike, which can quickly lead to blindness. She said if she were able to get her drops directly from her doctor, she wouldn't run that risk.

Saldana said when her prescriptions are too expensive or are not in stock at the pharmacy, she is forced to go without the treatment for days at a time.

“I went without and oftentimes, I, you know, did that for a while until another solution would come up,” she said.

Cases like Saldana’s is one reason San Antonio ophthalmologist Dr. Kris Held is one of the two Texas doctors suing the state to overturn a law that doesn't allow doctors to dispense medication from their offices. The other doctor is a general practitioner based in Austin.

Held has partnered with nonprofit Institute for Justice to challenge the ban. The organization, which is representing both doctors in the lawsuit, defends free speech through Constitutional litigation.

Held said they are seeking to overturn the law to allow Texas doctors to sell noncontrolled medications directly to their patients.

“A ban on dispensing is really irrational,” Held said.

There are two exceptions. Doctors in rural locations can give medication if there is not a pharmacy within 15 miles. They can get a pharmacist's license, which would require them to complete four years of pharmacy school.

“Particularly when you can dispense in a rural area,” Held said. “You know, am I any more capable of dispensing because my office is by a CVS or if I am out in the country? No.”

Held said she believes if physicians were able to sell medications from their office, it would save patients time, money and would be better for patients’ health.

Click here to access a study stating that 30% of patients don’t get their medications filled when going through the pharmacy.

Held argues that this is not about physicians making money. She wants to sell medication at cost.

She said it’s about preventing pharmacies from making money off patients. 

“There's so many middlemen involved between the doctor prescribing and patients getting medications, that there's just so much money going out to feed the insurance company,” Held said.

KSAT reached out to the groups being sued: the Texas Medical Board and the Texas State Board of Pharmacy. Both declined to comment.

The Texas Pharmacy Association website states "if the law was overturned, it would threaten patient health and safety."

Held said there is no evidence to back up the safety claim.

“In fact, there is a study that may suggest that after dispense, visits to urgent care and visits to the (emergency room) are lower after physician dispense than pharmacy dispense,” Held said.

Currently, physicians can sell medication to patients from their office in 45 states and Washington, D.C.

Two bills were filed this past legislative session. Both failed to pass.

Held said she believes the only way to change the law is by suing the state.

You can read more information about this issue on Institute for Justice's web page about the lawsuit. 

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