Online Pet Pharmacies - Be A.W.A.R.E.
Thinking about shopping for your pet's medications online? Protect yourself and your pet! Not all internet pet pharmacies are reputable. There are many illegally operated internet pharmacies selling medicines that are counterfeit, outdated or mislabeled. Some medicines may not contain the actual drug, or less of the drug than is indicated on the label. They may contain harmful contaminants, or be rendered ineffective from being stored in conditions too hot, too cold or too humid for extended periods of time. In the best case these "medicines" will not work, but in the worst case they can cause serious harm to your pet. Furthermore, if you are dissatisfied with a product you ordered online, illegal internet pharmacies typically leave you with no way to get your money back. You should also be aware that neither the drug manufacturer nor your veterinarian will stand behind a product's guarantee if it was purchased online.
There is no fool-proof way to tell if an internet pharmacy is legal. However, the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine has issued guidelines that may help pet owners steer clear of illegal internet pharmacies.
A Ask Your Veterinarian
Ask your veterinarian questions, such as, Do you trust the internet pharmacy site? Have you ever worked with this company before? Have other clients used the site, and if so, what was their experience?
W Watch for Red Flags
Be wary if ...
- The site does not require a prescription from a veterinarian
- The site has no licensed pharmacist available to answer questions
- The site does not list a physical business address or phone number
- The site is not based in the US
- The site is not licensed by the State Board of Pharmacy where the business is based - you can check the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP)'s website to see if the pharmacy is properly licensed: www.nabp.net
- The site does not protect your personal information
- Prices on the site are dramatically lower than your veterinarian's or other websites' prices
- The site ships you medicine that you didn't order or which looks very different from what your pet normally takes - don't give these medicines to your pet! Contact the site immediately!
A Always Check for Site Accrediation
In 2009, the NABP created a voluntary accreditation program called Vet-VIPPS (Veterinary Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites). This program helps you identify online pharamcy sites legally selling veterinary prescription products. Vet-VIPPS accredited online pharmacies:
- Are appropriately licensed in each state where they ship drugs
- Are operating legally on the internet
- Have successfully completed a 19-point critera review and online survey
- Undergo yearly review and re-accreditation
- Undergo NABP on-site surveys every three years
- Meet strict criteria for protecting patient confidentiality, quality assurance, and validity of prescription orders
R Report Problems and Suspicious Online Pharmacies
If your pet has a problem with a medication purchased online (i.e., the product did not work or caused an adverse reaction), first contact the medicine's manufacturer. To report adverse drug events directly to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine, call 1-800-FDA-VETS.
E Educate Yourself About Online Pharmacies
The best defense against disreputable online pharmacies is education. Do your homework and be AWARE before you purchase your pet's medications online.
Whenever your pet needs prescription medicines, your veterinarian is your best, most reliable source because your vet ...
- has physically examined your pet and knows your pet's medical and treatment history
- knows which medications are best for your pet
- can educate you about potential side effects associated with your pet's medicines
- can show you how to properly use the medicines prescribed for your pet
- properly stores prescription medicines in the clinic according to label directions
For additional information, visit the following websites:
Food and Drug Administration: www.fda.gov
National Association of Boards of Pharmacy: www.nabp.net
American Veterinary Medical Association: www.avma.org
"If animals could speak the dog would be a blundering outspoken fellow, but the cat would have the rare grace of never saying a word too much."