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October 7, 2011 > Veterinary & Pet News: Online Pet Pharmacies

Veterinary & Pet News: Online Pet Pharmacies

Americans are under more pressure and time crunch than ever before. Many people like the idea of purchasing prescriptions online thinking that it will save them time and money. The amount of money spent on pets is approximately fifty billion annually. Prescription medications account for an increasingly bigger piece of the pie annually. Although there are some benefits to purchasing prescriptions online such as convenience, there are some major pitfalls as well.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is very concerned about online pet pharmacies and has issued a press release warning pet owners of the hazards of online pharmacies. Some of the major online pharmacies have been fined and reprimanded for not following proper procedures when dispensing online medications. Some online pharmacies are fronts for businesses that are breaking state and federal laws.

According to the FDA report, pet owners should watch for the following red flags when ordering online:

* There is no visible address and phone number posted on the website.
What happens if you have a problem? How will you receive a refund? Who do you call if your pet has a reaction? What if the product is counterfeit? Many such questions arise when pet owner's visit such sites.

* There is no licensed pharmacist on staff
Who do you ask questions? Will anyone be available to discuss drug interactions or problems with your medication? Who is responsible for errors?

* The website says that no prescription is needed to order medications
Prescribing medications without a proper veterinary prescription is breaking the law. If they will break such an important law like this, what stops them from engaging in other illegal conduct? How do you know they will give you the right medications stored under the right conditions and purchased from the correct companies?

* Site is not licensed by State Board of Pharmacy.
The state protects pet owners in case proper procedures are not followed by the pharmacy.

* Prices are too low compared to other websites or your veterinarian
If the prices are ridiculously low, you may want to think twice. Could the product be counterfeit or made for a foreign country?

* Pharmacy is in another country
What happens if anything goes wrong? Who will protect you since the state and federal laws don't apply? Is the product the same exact one sold in the United States? Is the product stored properly? Is the product affected by international shipment.

Although there are many other suggestions to consider, the aforementioned ideas are a few that I think may be the most important.

Manufacturers sell directly to your veterinarians with no middlemen involved. As a result, veterinarians can offer all the warranties and guaranties that are void when you purchase the medications online. For example, if a pet owner purchases a popular heartworm preventative from your veterinarian, and the pet is later infected by heartworms, the manufacturer will pay for treating your pet (even if you didn't give one pill of the medication). If your pet has a reaction or a problem with any product, most manufacturers will back up the veterinarians and will help with covering the tab for some of the costs.

Compared to human medicine, veterinary medicine has been a bargain for pet owners. Selling prescription drugs allowed the veterinarian to charge smaller fees for examinations and other important services. As veterinarians lose market share from prescription medications, many will resort to gradually increasing their fees on all services. Essentially, prescription medications help subsidize fees on services.

In response to online pet pharmacies, veterinarians are fighting back by providing pricing that is similar to or lower than online pet pharmacies. Many veterinary clinics will ship or deliver your medications right to your door if you request it. Others are offering online prescription medication ordering and refills.

The best defense against illegal online pet pharmacies is to become aware and informed, and to do your homework before purchasing anything online. Your pets are counting on you to protect them.

Dr Raj Salwan is a second generation Veterinarian and has been around Veterinary Medicine for over 25 years. His interests include Internal Medicine, Surgery, Emergency/Acute Care, and general small animal practice. He currently works at American Animal Care in Fremont and can be reached via email at or

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