In the ongoing desire to help enhance the wellness and longevity of your pets, this month we focus upon the benefits and concerns associated with Internet-based pharmacies for pet medications.

Background
As you, yourself, have experienced, the Internet has changed virtually all aspects of our lives — from where we acquire our information, how we interact, and how we purchase and obtain goods and services. And just as the Internet has transformed our lives, it is changing our pets’ lives, too.

Happy Pets
Today many large Internet-based pet supply companies exist along with countless Internet pet pharmacies. The question we often hear: should I order medication online?

Advantages
The benefits of using an online pet pharmacy primarily focus around convenience and cost. Medications can quickly be ordered and delivered directly to your home (or office) — often saving you time and, at times, money.

But which online pharmacies should you trust?

Concerns

The greatest concern to veterinarians and pet owners revolves around the medical composition of what you order and ultimately receive. While in some cases you may receive the product (by SKU) that was actually desired, produced and packaged by the identified manufacturer, in other instances you may not. Given financial incentives and the ability to bypass traditional safeguards and regulatory channels, it is possible that ordered medicine:

Pet Medications

  • Is of a lower strength or potency
  • Uses different ingredients (generally lower cost) resulting in a similar, but not identical, compound
  • Has expired
  • Is inert — providing no medicinal or health value
  • Is actually harmful to your pet

But how do you know? Given the willingness and sophistication of many counterfeiters, it’s impossible to know without chemically testing the received medication. And given your first order may have been authentic, there is no guarantee any subsequent order may adhere to the same rules.

Essential Questions
When thinking about medications for your pet, we urge you to consider the questions below. Your response will help you assess the risk associated with ordering from an online pharmacy.

Online Pharmacy
 

How critical is the medicine to my pet’s health? The more vital (such as cardiac, antiseizure or similar medication), the more you need to trust the seller and authenticity of your pet’s medication.

Who is the manufacturer, and where is the actual medication produced and packaged? Greater governmental/FDA controls are often placed upon medications produced and packaged within the United States. And US manufacturers can often be contacted to ensure their products are sold through an authorized retail outlet.

Is the price “too good” to be true? If the price is too attractive, the quality will likely suffer.

Can medicines requiring a prescription be purchased without documentation? If so, it’s time to move on to another pharmacy.

Where is the online store physically located? If the physical address of the online pharmacy cannot be easily found (and it cannot be validated via Google), you might want to think twice about purchasing from this particular online store. Similarly, if you cannot contact them via telephone and they do not have a written return policy, please keep looking.

Do you trust the brand of the online pharmacy? Does the actual selling store have a traditional, brick-and-mortar store, or has the company been around for many years? If ordering from Amazon, be sure to review the ratings and details of the selling company.

Does your veterinarian recommend the online store? This is the gold standard. Your veterinarian will know which stores sell genuine medication. The price may be higher, but you always get what you pay for.

Verification and Accreditation
To help weed out unscrupulous online pet pharmacies, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) created a voluntary accreditation program called Vet-VIPPS (Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites). These online pharmacies are state and federally licensed, undergo yearly reviews and re-accreditation processes, and NABP-conducted on-site surveys every three years.  To search for an accredited online pet pharmacy, click https://nabp.pharmacy/programs/vipps/vipps-accredited-pharmacies-list/

Online Pharmacy Accreditation
You can also search for online pharmacies that use a .pharmacy domain (rather than .com or .net)—which have been similarly accredited. However, some online merchants may try to confuse pet owners by using pharmacy in their URL or illegally displaying the VIPPS logo. Like purchasing for your own needs, we encourage you to locate and read user reviews for any online merchant — including those from the Better Business Bureau.

Questions
If you’re unsure about the accreditation status of a particular online pharmacy, please contact us. We would be happy to discuss your objectives, needs and to help you locate a pharmacy that can confidently deliver the medication your pet requires.

As always, we’re here to help you and your pet in every way that we can—both online and off.