In these difficult economic times, it is understandable that people are very concerned about the cost of medications and preventatives both for themselves and their four-footed companions. However, saving a few pennies now can add up to big expenses in the long run. The Federal Drug Administration has written warnings regarding the purchase of medications through the Internet. The publication can be found at http://www.fda.gov/forconsumers/consumerupdates/ucm048164.htm. The California Veterinary Medical Board has printed similar warnings. As a consumer, there are several things that you should be aware of before you decide to purchase products at an on-line pharmacy.
Many Internet pharmacies purchase their products from countries other than the USA. This is why the items are sometimes less expensive. Other countries are not held to the same standards and regulations that are required in the United States. This means that inferior products and additives can be used. According to the California Veterinary Medical Board, “imported prescription drugs may be illegal, counterfeit or fake, subjecting your pet to dangerous, if not fatal, medication levels.” In addition, because of where the products are produced, the time from production to arrival at the retailer’s warehouse is lengthened. As a result, items may be close to (or beyond) their expiration date when they arrive at your doorstep. Importantly, the protections that the drug manufacturer offers are not valid if the products are not purchased at a veterinary clinic.
Internet pharmacies want to increase their profits. Because of this, they will often change your prescription medication to a different item that is less expensive, and may not be as effective. This helps them, because their profit margin is higher on the less expensive products. They can change your medication at will, unless it is marked “do not substitute” on the prescription form (and we have seen some on-line pharmacies that change the medication, even when “do not substitute” is marked). Furthermore, they often automatically charge your credit card for refills, making it difficult for you to change to a different pharmacy.
If you still decide to order from the Internet, here are some things that you can do to protect yourself and your beloved companion:
- Always consult with a licensed veterinarian before using or ordering any product for your pet.
- Make sure that the pharmacy you use is licensed in the state of California. The California Bord of Pharmacy oversees pharmaceutical business within California, and they can help protect against unsafe medication dispensing.
- Make sure that products you order are made in the USA and are labeled for use in animals of your pet’s species, age, and weight.
- Have the prescription noted as “Dispense as written, no substitutions” to ensure the product that you want, is what is shipped.
- Do not order any products on-line that require special handling. There is a much greater chance of product inactivation if an item requires refrigeration.
Keep in mind that many veterinary clinics have adjusted product pricing to remain competitive with Internet pharmacies. As a result, you may be surprised to find that the medications at your veterinarian, are the same price or even cheaper than on-line! Another thing that may surprise you is that many veterinarians will happily mail or deliver products right to your door, often for no extra charge. An added benefit to purchasing through your local veterinarian is that the money you spend supports and protects local businesses. In short, the money stays in Stockton, creating more opportunity in our community. In contrast, only about 10% of the money spent at on-line pharmacies eventually ends up in the local community. For all of these reasons, please think twice when considering ordering medication and other products from the Internet; and realize that you could be risking the health of your cherished companions.