Posted on October 7, 2012
Prescription medications can be just as expensive for dogs and cats as they are for us. For the pricier drugs I prescribe for my canine and feline patients, or those that will need to be given long term, I am in the habit of encouraging my clients to “shop around” both locally and on line.
I’m always happy to provide the prescription to the pharmacy of my client’s choosing, so long as it is a pharmacy I deem to be reputable. That being said, I admit that the reputability of an online pharmacy can be difficult for me to determine. This is why a recent warning by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was of particular interest to me.
The FDA claims that the vast majority of Internet pharmacies are selling counterfeit drugs. Not only are some patients receiving a medication different than what was prescribed, they may be in fact be taking something harmful. According the FDA, there has been documentation of Internet pharmacies providing expired medications, placebos, the wrong amount of the active ingredient, and even toxic substances such as arsenic and rat poison.
Research by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, which represents the state pharmacy boards, found that of thousands of online pharmacies it reviewed, only approximately three percent follow state and federal laws. Scary stuff, eh?
Pertaining to their recent warning, FDA Commissioner, Dr. Margaret Hamburg was quoted by The Associated Press as stating, “Our goal is to increase awareness, not to scare people away from online pharmacies. We want them to use appropriate pharmacies.”
So, how can you and I be more confident that an online pharmacy has the best interest of our pets at heart? The FDA advises us to make sure that any online pharmacy we use meets the following criteria:
- It is located in the United States.
- It is licensed by the state board of pharmacy where the website is operating. A list of these boards is available at the website of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.
- It is staffed by a licensed pharmacist available to answer your questions.
- It requires a valid doctor’s prescription before medication is dispensed.
- It provides contact information and allows you to talk to a real live human being if you have problems or questions.
Conversely, here are some signs that you may be dealing with an unsafe Internet vendor:
- It offers prices dramatically lower than the competition.
- No telephone contact number is provided.
- It offers to sell prescription drugs without a valid prescription.
- It does not clearly state how your personal information will be protected.
- The appearance of the medication (color, texture, shape, smell, packaging) is different than the characteristics with which you are familiar.
For more information on avoiding online pharmacy scams, I encourage you to visit the new BeSafeRx website launched by the FDA.
Have you used an online pharmacy for you or your pet? Any concerns about the quality of the medication you received?
Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at www.speakingforspot.com, Amazon.com, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.