We all like to save a buck or two. But pinching pennies when it comes to your pet’s health can be dangerous. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is putting out a warning to pet owners who buy their dog or cat’s meds online. While many web pharmacies are legit, there are a handful of websites that sell expired or counterfeit drugs without a prescription. The FDA says there are even fraudulent sites that ask you to fill out an online form describing your pet’s condition and then claim to have a veterinarian evaluate it and prescribe treatment. These are major red flags. Don’t fall victim to these scams! It can really harm your little fur ball and end up costing you more time and money in the end.
The main reason this is dangerous is because some foreign web pharmacies may send you drugs that aren’t approved by the FDA. Also, what if an online company recommends the wrong treatment for your pet? A veterinarian should always examine your pet in person to decide the proper way to treat it.
Also, many pet owners take to the net to find more common prescription veterinary drugs like heartworm preventatives and anti-inflammatory drugs. Again, you may order the wrong thing or not actually get the drug you want.
A good rule of thumb is to always keep your veterinarian involved the process, even if you don’t get the drugs from them in the end. You should always have a professional write up a prescription for you. Then you can mail it in to a legit online pharmacy and your vet can keep an eye on your pet throughout the process. You wouldn’t buy meds for yourself on blind faith. So why put your four legged friend at risk?
The FDA’s website has a great checklist for people who want to order their pet’s meds online safely. Here are a few of the suggestions listed on the site:
A— Ask Your Veterinarian
Before you purchase online, talk with your veterinarian! Your veterinarian supports you and wants what’s best for both you and your pet. Ask your veterinarian questions, like: “Do you trust the internet pharmacy site?”, “Have you ever worked with the company?”, and “Have other clients used that site?” If any of the answers are "yes," what were your veterinarian's experiences?
W—Watch for Red Flags
When buying from online pharmacies, keep an eye out for red flags. Be careful if the…
• Site does not require veterinary prescriptions for prescription drug orders.
• Site has no licensed pharmacist available to answer questions.
• Site does not list physical business address, phone number, or other contact information.
• Site is not based in the US.
• Site is not licensed by the State Board of Pharmacy where the business is based.
If the business is based in the US, check to see if it is properly licensed in the State where it is based by contacting that State's Board of Pharmacy. Get contact info on the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) website: http://nabp.net/boards-of-pharmacy/
• Site does not protect your personal information.
• Site’s prices are dramatically lower than your veterinarian’s or other website’s prices.
• Site ships you medicine that you didn’t order or that looks very different from what your pet normally takes.
A—Always Check for Site Accreditation
Vet-VIPPS (Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites) accredited online pharmacies:
• are appropriately licensed in each state where they ship drugs
• have successfully completed a 19-point review and online survey
• undergo yearly VIPPS review and re-accreditation
• undergo NABP on-site surveys every three years
• Vet-VIPPS accredited pharmacies must also meet other strict criteria, including protecting patient confidentiality, quality assurance, and validity of prescription orders.
R—Report Problems and Suspicious Online Pharmacies
Protect yourself, your pets, and others! Don’t fall victim to illegal online pharmacies. Report suspicious online pharmacy sites to FDA and NABP at:
E—Educate Yourself about Online Pharmacies
The best defense you have against illegal online pharmacies is education. Do your homework and be online pharmacy A.W.A.R.E. before you purchase your pet’s medicines online. An informed consumer is an empowered consumer.
We want to know. Have you ever used the web to buy your pet’s medications? Was it a good or bad experience?