Saturday, March 31, 2012

Purchasing Pet Meds Online

Those of us who have pets that need regular medication know first hand how expensive it can get. Many people go online to try and find those meds at a cheaper price, which is OK, if you do your homework and know exactly what you are getting into.

I stopped by my vet's office today and picked up a pamphlet on this topic put out by the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine. In the pamphlet, they point out that among the reputable pharmacies online, you will also find sites that are "fronts for businesses breaking Federal, State, and sometimes, international laws". Without knowing it, you could be ordering medication that is counterfeit, mislabeled, outdated, improperly stored, etc. What you get may not be the actual drug, may be contaminated, or may have the incorrect amount of the drug in it. You just never know. And if you do purchase online, the drug maker will not stand behind the product's guarantee in most cases.

One thing that is recommended is that, if you find the drug cheaper online, you go to your vet with that info and see if they can match the cheaper price. Many will be willing to do this. But, if they can't, and you still want to purchase your meds online, the CVM suggests you protect yourself by doing your homework and "being online pharmacy A.W.A.R.E."

A: Ask your veterinarian
Before you make that online purchase, talk to your vet. Ask them if they have ever worked with that particular online pharmacy and if they trust them. Also, ask if they have other clients who have used that pharmacy and, if so, what kind of experience they had.

W: Watch for red flags
When making a purchase from an online pharmacy, keep an eye out for red flags. Take care if the site does not require veterinary prescriptions for prescription meds (if they do not, they are breaking the law); the site has no licensed pharmacist available to answer questions; they do not list a physical business address, phone number or other contact info; they are not based in the US; are not licensed by the State Board of Pharmacy in the state where they are based; they do not protect your personal information; their prices are dramatically lower than your vet's or other websites' prices; they ship you medicines that you didn't order or that look different from what you usually get.

A: Always check site for accreditation
Besides the usual Federal and State licensing and inspection requirements, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) in 2009 created a voluntary program called Vet-VIPPS (Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites). These accredited online pet pharmacies are licensed in the states from which they ship the meds, have completed a 19-point review and online survey, undergo yearly VIPPS review and accreditation, and undergo NABP on-site surveys every three years. Plus, these accredited pharmacies have to meet other criteria including protecting client confidentiality, strict quality assurance, and making sure the prescription orders are valid.

R: Report problems and Suspicious Online Pet Pharmacies
If your pet has a reaction to a medicine purchased from an online pharmacy, or if it appears the medicine isn't working as it normally does, contact the medicine's maker, let them know. You can also find info on how to report a problem to the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine here.

E: Educate Yourself About Online Pet Pharmacies
The very best defense against these illegal online pharmacies is education. Do your homework. Research, research, research before purchasing your pet's meds online. Remember the old saying: Knowledge is power.

Your own vet is the best bet when it comes to purchasing meds for your pet. They have examined your pet and know its medical and treatment history. They are there to personally speak to you about the medication and any possible side effects to watch out for. They use current, unexpired meds and keep them properly stored on-site. Your vet is your pets best friend, next to you of course.

For more info:
US Food and Drug Administration

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