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FDA Consumer Alert: Buying Pet Medications Online

Buying Online

According to a consumer alert issued recently by the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM), buying pet medications through online pharmacies can be risky.

FDA regulators have documented cases at both domestic and foreign internet pharmacies of unscrupulous practices including:

  • Sale of unapproved pet medications
  • Sale of counterfeit pet medications
  • Sale of expired pet medications
  • Dispensing drugs without a prescription

The CVM is especially concerned about pet owners who are buying two prescription veterinary meds – NSAIDS (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and heartworm preventives – online.

The CVM warns that these drugs can be dangerous when administered to pets without guidance and monitoring by a licensed veterinarian who has evaluated the need, use and safe dosages for the dog or cat receiving the medication.

According to DVM Newsmagazine:

“If consumers opt to use an Internet pharmacy, the FDA wants them to pick a pharmacy accredited through the Association of Boards of Pharmacy's Vet-VIPPS (Veterinary Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site) program. Outsourced prescription management services used by veterinarians offer another credible pharmacy source, FDA says.”

Dr. Becker's Comments:

This is a great heads-up for any of you who have considered shopping online for medications for your pet.

I love a bargain as much as anyone, but not if it means endangering the health of my patients, my own precious pets, or yours.

When It Comes to Online Shopping for Pet Medications, Proceed with Extreme Caution

The FDA’s consumer alert lists several red flags to look out for when dealing with online pharmacies, including:

  • No prescription required for prescription veterinary medicines. These businesses are breaking the law, plain and simple. Under the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act, pharmacies cannot sell prescription drugs without a valid prescription from a licensed veterinarian. If a business is willing to break the law, they probably shouldn’t be trusted for any reason.
  • No licensed pharmacist available. You should always be able to speak with a pharmacist about the drugs you’re purchasing for your pet.
  • No contact information. Legitimate online pharmacies list a physical business address, customer service phone number or other contact information.
  • Not licensed by the State Board of Pharmacy. Online U.S. pharmacies should be properly licensed in the state where the business resides. You can get contact information for each State Board of Pharmacy at the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) website.
  • Prices are dramatically lower than average. If an online pharmacy’s pricing looks too good to be true in comparison to prices charged at other online pharmacies or by your veterinarian – there’s probably a reason.
  • The medication you receive isn’t what you ordered or looks different from the medication your pet normally takes. Don’t give the medication to your pet, and contact the seller immediately.

How to Order Pet Meds Safely

In 2009, the NABP implemented a voluntary accreditation program called Vet-VIPPS (Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites). These sites must meet specific criteria, including:

  • They must be appropriately licensed in each state where they ship drugs
  • They must successfully complete a 19-point review and online survey
  • They must submit to yearly review and re-accreditation
  • They must undergo NABP on-site surveys every three years
  • They must meet strict criteria for patient confidentiality, quality assurance and validity of prescription orders

You can find a current list of accredited Vet-VIPPS pharmacies here.

Most Important of All? Don’t Allow Your Pet to Be Over Medicated!

Veterinary drugs have their place and are useful in specific applications – they can even be lifesaving in certain circumstances.

However, potentially toxic chemicals, all of which carry side effects, are not the only preventives or remedies available for your pet’s health, and are often not even the best option.

Three grossly overprescribed drugs in veterinary medicine today are yearly vaccines, antibiotics, and steroids like Prednisone.

Other medications that are overused are heartworm preventives and flea/tick repellents.

I encourage you to find an integrative or holistic veterinarian who will team up with you to keep your dog or cat in good health. Holistic vets are licensed DVM’s (Doctors of Veterinary Medicine) who opt for additional training in alternative healing and receive certification to practice complementary therapies in addition to traditional veterinary medicine.

An integrative or holistic vet will prescribe medication when necessary, but will tend not to view drugs as the only option or even the first option.

If your beloved cat or dog can be brought back to vibrant good health or protected from disease with safe, gentle, natural, non-drug remedies, that is always the better alternative.

+ Sources and References