What about Online Pharmacies?
Many of our clients ask us about purchasing their pet's medication online. Online pharmacies often sell medication for less. Reputable online pharmacies are able to do this because they can order in bulk and have little overhead. Unfortunately there are also some pharmacies who cut costs by selling counterfeit medications or purchasing their medicines through questionable sources.
To prevent purchasing medication that may not work, or that could actually hurt your pet make sure:
1) The pharmacy has a licensed veterinarian or pharmacist on staff. Veterinarians or pharmacists are needed in order to purchase and prescribe medication. They also review medications that the pharmacy dispenses and verify that this medicine is correct. They also, by law, should have a doctor on staff.
2) The pharmacy is licensed to sell medication in your state. It is illegal for a pharmacy to sell if it does not have a license to do so.
3) The pharmacy can prove where the medication was purchased. A pharmacy should purchase their medications from the manufacturer. Some online pharmacies go through a third party to purchase the medicine. This can create problems. The third party may repackage expired medication or false medication and sell it as good medication.
4) The medication was purchased directly from the manufacturer. Medication should be purchased directly from the manufacturer. This prevents any mishandling of the medicine. Most medications are sensitive and if they are exposed to hot or cold temperatures, they will no longer work as effective. Also, the medication has not been tampered with because it is shipped directly from where it is made.
Legitimate pharmacies will meet all of these requirements and will be happy to supply you with information. Other pharmacies that do not meet these requirements are likely to sell medications that are not effective. And you are therefore not getting your money's worth and your pet's health may suffer.
Manufacturers will guarantee products purchased from your veterinarian. They do not guarantee products purchased through an online pharmacy. For example, you purchase some heartworm prevention from us, which also prevents some intestinal worms, and your dog gets the intestinal worm. We will let the company know what happened. The company will ask a few questions and may require a follow up check. They will then reimburse you for the cost of care and may even pay for a year supply of prevention for free. Some online pharmacies, such as Pet Meds, say the medication is guaranteed. However if you read the guarantee, it states that they will only refund your money. You will have to pay for any worming and testing costs.
Online pharmacies have sold products purchased through third parties or from other countries. These products are not USDA approved and have not been tested. These products may not be effective against diseases and parasites found in the United States. The imported products may look similar or sound similar to medication sold in the US. These products have also been repackaged in homemade packages that look like the packaging sold in the US. Counterfeit Frontline, the flea prevention drops, was found on the market a few years ago. The medicine in the tubes were similar to Frontline, but was not Frontline. This medicine was repackages in homemade boxes and sold to unsuspecting consumers. Counterfeit Advantage, another flea prevention, also was found. The tube's contents were tested and it was found to contain tap water.
Some online pharmacies have had numerous lawsuits filed against them for illegal activities. Charges in Florida, Texas, Ohio and other states have been filed against one of the most popular online pharmacies. Charges include selling medication without a prescription, contracting veterinarians to write prescriptions for animals they have never seen and selling medication purchased from other countries.
AVMA's Position on Internet Pharmacies
1) Drug therapy should be started by the attending vet, who has seen the animal and has a current client-patient relationship.
2) Drugs may be dispensed or prescribed. Vets can fill a prescription at any legitimate pharmacy.
3) Clients may be advised to select a internet pharmacy certified by the National Boards of Pharmacy whose VIPPS program and seal of approval.
4) Vets may only okay prescriptions for patients they have a valid client patient relationship.
5) A pharmacy can not decide if a medication can be prescribed or what medication is prescribed.
6) A written record of the prescription must be maintained.
7) The vet should inform the client about proper use and risks of a medication.
For more information about online pharmacies, please visit:
"Purchasing Pet Drugs Online: Buyer Beware"
American Vet Medical Association's article
Avoiding Counterfeit Products for Dogs and Cats
EPA's Page about Counterfeit Products
"Texas Slaps Pet Med Express with Lawsuit"