Yes, you read that right. Chewy has filed a lawsuit in the New York Supreme Court against VetCove and Covetrus, focused on the sale and approval of pet prescription products.
Why are we talking about it here at Instinct? Well, with the imminent launch of our brand new (and free) electronic prescribing software for veterinary practices, Instinct Scripts, it’s come up as an important point of discussion!
Over the last two decades, the steady loss of product revenues to pet retailers (online and off) and pharmacies has already been a difficult pill to swallow. Now, these same entities are asking veterinary staff to spend significant time and energy facilitating these lost sales with endless phone calls and faxes.
As veterinarians, veterinary nurses and technicians, and practice managers, the Instinct team has firsthand experience with this current (painful) workflow for sending prescriptions to outside pharmacies. How in the world are we still dependent on faxes in the 21st century? 🤦
And now with this lawsuit, it’s easy to feel like mere players in this epic drama between mighty corporate giants.
Here at Instinct, we have some ideas about how veterinary practices can survive—and maintain a central role—in this often-chaotic setting.
⚖️ The Latest Developments
First, let’s take a quick look at the case itself. News of the lawsuit spread widely this week when Covetrus filed a motion to dismiss, primarily for jurisdiction reasons, and sent an email to its entire veterinary customer list explaining its perspective on the situation.
This motion to dismiss makes it clear that Covetrus does not see itself as a party to the conflict. Instead, it argues that Chewy should actually be suing the veterinary practices that participated with VetCove in this “diversion scheme.”
At the same time, Covetrus claims it advocates for its veterinary customers and supports the traditional Veterinary Client Patient Relationship (VCPR) against the likes of Chewy, Dutch, and others who might prefer a world in which no physical VCPR is ever required. (As you can imagine, this would not sit well with most state boards of veterinary medicine or veterinarians themselves.)
Are you confused yet? You’re not alone. The lawsuit—and accompanying public communication from Covetrus—has been the topic of vigorous debate and discussion in a variety of veterinary groups. The most common take is that Chewy is the big bad wolf, Covetrus isn’t much better (but happens to be on our side here), and—wait a second—how is the smaller veterinary company VetCove even involved in something like this? They must be on our side, right?
(Disclaimer: We know and work with great humans at all of those companies.)
The strangest thing for many veterinarians here is that Chewy, an online pet retailer, has alleged that veterinarians and their chosen software partners are diverting sales that should rightfully be Chewy’s.
In reality, no pharmacy can legally sell a prescription pet product without a veterinarian’s involvement and approval. And traditionally, that approval comes only after the veterinarian’s recommendation for a particular product, not as the result of a premium marketing campaign or top-notch customer service from a retailer or manufacturer.
Unless there is a quick settlement of some sort, more relevant information will likely be forthcoming in additional legal filings.
We’re a relatively small industry, so it shouldn’t be too surprising to learn that many different entities are connected as partners and competitors in various ways. We’ve already seen a whirlwind of corporate activity in our industry this year, with the acquisitions of ezyVet by IDEXX, Vetspire by Pathway, and Vetter by DaySmart. And now this, as if a pandemic and overwhelming demand for veterinary services were not enough. 😰
The frustrating thing for our veterinary colleagues is that we have little control over the battles between these corporate giants, and at the end of the day, we’re often just pawns in their game. What can we do to survive, thrive, and maintain our central role in this setting?
💊 Where Instinct Scripts Comes In
We’re trying to approach things a little differently. As the only software company staffed mainly by licensed and experienced veterinary professionals, we are all about improving patient care while making the lives of our colleagues easier.
That’s why we have taken on the behemoth task of finally bringing true electronic prescribing to veterinary medicine.
We shouldn’t have been left behind by the rest of the healthcare industry in the first place, but unfortunately, those darn NPI numbers were simply too high a hurdle at first. We’re taking care of that now, and it won’t be an issue for much longer.
Instinct Scripts will provide the same functionality for veterinarians and their staff that human healthcare providers have enjoyed for a decade: simply sending a prescription to the client’s preferred pharmacy with a few clicks.
Maybe that’s the label printer sitting on your pharmacy counter, the local compounding pharmacy that can have some bacon-flavored yumminess ready for your client to pick up later the same day, or even the Walgreens on the other side of the parking lot. We’ll also facilitate the reverse prescription approval requests, which, for better or worse, make up a lot of the substance of this Chewy lawsuit.
The big difference is that instead of keeping track of a bunch of individual accounts for every different pharmacy, retail, and manufacturer portal, you’ll be able to take care of every outside prescription in one place. Right where you’re already spending the majority of your screen time on a typical clinic day. Easy, intuitive workflow efficiency. That’s Instinct.
Our industry is undergoing many changes right now, and the evolving marketplace for veterinary prescription products is one of the most significant. Our goal is to make this process easier to navigate and more transparent for all parties involved.
Get in touch if you’re interested in learning more about Instinct Scripts! We’re always looking for feedback and input as we push the boundaries in veterinary medicine and finally solve some of the real-world challenges we all face in daily practice.