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Buying Pet Medicine Online: Be Careful

Updated on November 5, 2017
Bob Bamberg profile image

With 30 years in the pet supply industry, Bob's newspaper column deals with animal health, nutrition, behavior, regulation, and advocacy.

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Buying pet medications online should be a pretty straightforward thing, and under certain circumstances, it is. The practice can also be fraught with danger, however.

A number of years ago, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) put out an alert about the dangers of ordering medications for pets online. Their main area of concern back then was the flea and tick control products known as spot-ons.

Online sources were discovered selling repackaged product that was near or beyond the expiration date. Another problem was that some of these products originated in foreign countries and were repackaged using the English language, but dosed using the metric system.

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Government Involvement

In April 2017, two federal agencies collaborated to catch a California man who was trafficking in counterfeit labels and packaging for flea and tick products, and also for certain medicines.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations teamed up with Homeland Security Investigations, a division of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), to investigate and prosecute the case.

Between July 2015 and December 2016, Paul S. Rodriguez, Jr. CEO of Action Packing and Design, Inc., manufactured counterfeit and trademarked Frontline and Frontline Plus labels and packaging, manufactured counterfeit Merial veterinary product labels and packaging, and trafficked in counterfeit trademarked RIMADYL labels.

He pleaded guilty, facing up to 10 years in prison and up to a two million dollar fine.

In Spite of Oversight, Fraud Remains

Overall, the FDA regulates the manufacture and distribution of drugs for veterinary use, but each state has a pharmacy board that regulates the dispensing of those drugs.

The National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) establishes standards for selling pet medications online.

With those levels of oversight pertaining to pet medications, most pet owners are content to take for granted that companies selling pet meds online are legitimate. Beware, entities remain that:

  • sell unapproved pet drugs
  • sell counterfeit pet products
  • make fraudulent claims
  • sell prescription drugs without requiring a prescription
  • sell drugs that are beyond their expiration date

How to Identify Legitimate Online Pharmacies

Until the end of August 2017, the NAPB’s Vet-VIPPS seal on the website of an online pharmacy was the consumer’s assurance that the pharmacy was legitimate.

VIPPS stands for Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites. Not many consumers were aware of this, however.

New rules from the NABP in August 2017 established strict standards and a new program for selling pet medications online.

After being qualified and enrolled by the organization, pharmacies are assigned web addresses that end in .pharmacy (dot pharmacy).

That designation helps consumers identify trustworthy, online pharmacies worldwide, and pharmacy-related websites, so they can safely and confidently make purchases.

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Consult With Your Veterinarian Before Buying Pet Medications Online

FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) recommends that you talk to your veterinarian before buying pet medications from online pharmacies.

The concern is that pet owners are going online to buy two types of commonly used veterinary prescription drugs: heartworm preventives, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), which can be dangerous if your vet isn’t overseeing their use and monitoring your pet.

The agency points out that your veterinarian should discuss possible side effects of NSAIDs with you and advises that your pet be monitored by your veterinarian while taking NSAIDs. In addition, they say you should be given a Client Information Sheet (CIS) that explains important safety information to you.

Shop Where Your Veterinarian Shops

Ask your veterinary practice if it uses a state-licensed internet pharmacy service. Such services work directly with veterinarians, require that a prescription is written, and support the veterinarian-client-patient relationship.

If you want to order your pet's medications online, you can probably order where your veterinarian orders.

© 2017 Bob Bamberg

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    • Bob Bamberg profile image
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      Bob Bamberg 3 weeks ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi, Peachy, I agree with you, especially since there really aren't many OTC pet medications, mostly just supplements. Medications are dosed for humans and some medications are toxic to animals. It's always a good idea to check with your vet before medicating an animal. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • peachpurple profile image

      peachy 3 weeks ago from Home Sweet Home

      I think it is best to consult the vet before buying otc meds

    • Bob Bamberg profile image
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      Bob Bamberg 3 weeks ago from Southeastern Massachusetts

      Hi, FlourishAnyway, nice to see you again. I think the only thing you can trust online for pet medications is a site whose URL ends in .Pharmacy. I think buying those products through a local nonprofit spay neuter clinic is a great idea. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image

      FlourishAnyway 3 weeks ago from USA

      This is good information. I received some flea prevention product over the Internet that upon receipt I was sure wasn’t valid and when I couldn’t get my money back through the website, I satisfactorily did so by filing a dispute through my credit card company. From then on, I bought it exclusively through the local nonprofit spay neuter clinic. At least any money made will go to a good cause!

      I assume Amazon is a no deal on this as well because you can’t truly tell who the seller is?