Texas Doctor to Appeal Ruling Upholding Protectionist Ban on Doctor Dispensing

Matt Powers
Matt Powers · December 24, 2020

Austin, Texas—Yesterday, the Travis County District Court upheld Texas’s ban on doctor dispensing. Forty-four states and the District of Columbia allow doctors to dispense medicine to patients in their offices and to recover their costs. But in Texas, doctors could lose their licenses for doing so. The court’s ruling leaves that ban in place. The Institute for Justice (IJ) will appeal the decision.

The lawsuit was filed in 2019 by Dr. Michael Garrett, a family physician in Austin who wants to dispense basic drugs like antibiotics and allergy medicine. He is not interested in dispensing controlled substances or dispensing for profit. Rather, he simply wants to offer patients more convenient access to routine medications.

“This decision is disappointing for doctors and patients throughout Texas,” said Dr. Garrett. “As a licensed physician, I’m more than qualified to dispense patients the medicine I prescribe. This law just makes it harder for me to do my job, which can’t be constitutional. I’m ready for the next step in this fight.”

Texas’s ban isn’t about protecting patients. Indeed, the vast majority of states, the American Medical Association and the Texas Medical Association embrace the practice of doctor dispensing, and research confirms that doctors and pharmacies are equally safe when dispensing. Instead, the law simply protects pharmacies from competition.

Because the Texas Constitution requires that laws like the dispensing ban must meaningfully benefit the public, rather than favored market groups, Dr. Garrett’s lawsuit seeks to have the ban declared unconstitutional. With help from IJ, Dr. Garrett will appeal the decision.

“Government power should be used to benefit the public. A law that prevents doctors from helping their patients just to protect pharmacies’ bottom lines violates that basic principle,” said IJ Attorney Josh Windham, lead counsel on the case. “We expect the court to recognize that on appeal.”