How To Safely Order Online Prescriptions
Life has become so simplified with the push of a button for purchases online. But in the name of saving money, you could be risking your pet’s health with counterfeit, expired or unregistered medications from unknown sources.
“Consumers who purchase pet medications online or at a big-box store might enjoy the convenience and cost savings, but the benefits come with risks,” noted Carmen Catizone, MS, RPh, DPh, executive director of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, in the April issue of Today’s Veterinary Business. “The biggest danger is that a pet could become sick or even die because a drug is a counterfeit.”
The black market for counterfeit, falsified and unregistered veterinary medicines is now worth up to $2 billion a year and growing. The global association Health for Animals reports the rising traffic via e-commerce of fake animal drugs through many illicit and legitimate drug channels.
This summer the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) bumped up its warnings about counterfeit pet drugs due to increasing investigations into online companies selling unapproved drugs, expired medications, or counterfeit products, many without a veterinarian prescription. Two of the most common problem products are non-steroidal anti-inflammatories and heartworm preventatives.
How online and big-box retailers obtain their products is of concern, and controversial. The manufacturers of the majority of veterinary products state that they sell only to veterinarians directly or via a handful of national distributors.
However, it is indisputable that many prescription products sold directly to veterinary practices have been diverted to grey-market distributors. These gray-market distributors then sell directly to pet owners via e-commerce sites or to supply other unauthorized sellers.
In its 2017 shareholders’ annual report, PetMedExpress, which operates 1-800-PetMeds.com, noted, “Historically, many of the major pharmaceutical manufacturers have declined to sell prescription and nonprescription pet medications directly to us. In order to assure a supply of these products, we purchase medications from various secondary sources, including a variety of domestic distributors.”
The unauthorized resale of veterinary drugs is not against the law; however, the sale of prescription of drugs to consumers without a prescription is unlawful.
How do you protect your pets?
1. Purchase your prescriptions and products directly from your veterinarian. This ensures that you have a safe product that still maintains its manufacturers guarantees. This is not true of products purchased online where the manufacturers will no longer provide financial support in the event of an adverse experience or lack of efficacy.
2 Order from your veterinarian’s outsourced prescription management service such as VetsFirstChoice or VetSource. These state-licensed internet pharmacies work with your veterinarian, require a prescription and support the veterinarian-client-patient relationship.
3. If you must use an online pharmacy, make sure that the website ends in “.pharmacy.” This designation replaces the former Vet-VIPPS seal and means that the pharmacy has met strict guidelines.
4. Never purchase prescription medications from a site that does not require a written prescription from your veterinarian or says they will “evaluate” your pet via the form completed by the owner – these are often illicit sites.
Dr. Margot Vahrenwald is the owner of Park Hill Veterinary Medical Center at 2255 Oneida St. For more information, visit www.parkhillvet.com