You’ve seen the TV advertisements for Internet pet pharmacies – they promote the convenience of home shopping with the benefit of big savings but are they a wise option for you and your pet?
While some online pharmacies are trustworthy, most have questionable ethics and business practices. Some top online pharmacies have even been fined in several states for either unethical or illegal business practices. At least monthly we hear from our clients about a prescription being filled incorrectly by an online pharmacy; most recently in 2020 we sent a client with a prescription for 100 tablets but they only received 10 tables from their online pharmacy of choice and had a difficult time getting the Rx filled correctly as written on the prescription. Unfortunately, these kinds of issues are far too common; not only are they a hassle for you, but they also make our medical records inaccurate because we have no way to track or see what or when prescriptions have been dispensed for each patient.
In the event of a prescription being filled incorrectly by a third-party pharmacy, there is very little we can do to help you; however, if you purchase the medications/products in-clinic and a mistake is made we will always made it right as quickly as we can.
Our prescription and prescribing policy
In order for our veterinarian to approve a prescription, the law requires that we have seen your pet for a comprehensive physical exam within a year of the requested prescription date. If your pet has not been seen within the past year, we cannot approve your request for a prescription. Additionally, there are some prescriptions that require certain test results prior to doctor approval or renewal.
In most states, it is unlawful for a veterinarian to write a prescription or dispense a prescription drug without a Veterinarian-Client-Patient Relationship (VCPR). To maintain a VCPR, our veterinarian must see your pet regularly. How often they need to see your pet depends on your pet's health. If your pet is on a prescription medicine, your veterinarian may need to reexamine your pet, check blood work, or perform other tests to monitor your pet's response to treatment and determine if the medication needs to be changed. For example, a dog being treated for hypothyroidism needs to be reevaluated regularly to make sure the dosage of medication prescribed is effective.
If one of our doctors makes a recommendation for your pet to have a prescription medication, the decision on where to get the medication is always yours. Your options include:
- We will dispense or special order the medication for you immediately, we can get most medications in 1-2 business days.
- We can send you an email with a link to the desired prescription through our online pharmacy to have it shipped directly to your home; this will keep all manufacturer guarantees intact should there be an issue.
- You may take a written script with you to submit to any pharmacy of your choosing.
AVMA’s Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics require that veterinarians provide written prescriptions to clients upon request in lieu of dispensing a drug when a VCPR exists and the veterinarian has determined that the drug is medically necessary.
Why working with us is your best choice
Our staff works diligently with a variety of manufacturers to find the best price and quality products and medications. We try hard to keep our costs to you as low as we can. We also work directly with an online pharmacy called Vetsource (see link at the top of this page) that can deliver your pet's medications to your door, provide you with a variety of coupons, and maintain all manufacturer guarantees.
All prescription medications purchased from this hospital have been inspected and approved by the FDA, they are dosed properly and accurately, and are manufactured and packaged according to US government regulations. Unfortunately, the same may not be true for all online pharmacies. When you purchase from an online pharmacy, the fact is you do not know the source of the medications.
Pharmaceutical manufacturers will always honor product guarantees when the medications are prescribed by and purchased from the pet’s veterinarian. Internet and mail-order catalogs may not qualify for these guarantees.
Online pharmacies drive up the cost of professional fees
The pharmacy is a vital and integral part of any veterinary practice. Revenue from the pharmacy allows practices to keep professional fees at a reasonable and affordable rate, purchase medical equipment, and pay for a well-trained and professional staff. When revenue from the pharmacy declines, small practices have no choice but to increase professional fees to cover the cost of doing business.
On a regular basis, representatives from pharmaceutical companies visit our office to present us with the latest data and research on their medications. In addition, our staff regularly attends veterinary conferences and seminars, and reads the latest veterinary medical journals and research papers. We stay up-to-date on the latest disease trends in our region, products and treatment protocols. Most importantly though, we have immediate and direct access to the pharmaceutical company through our representatives and have up-to-minute information about the medications you are purchasing.
What the FDA says about online pharmacies
Below are two links to articles from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) about online [pet] medication sales. For those of you who purchase, or are thinking about purchasing, your pet’s medications online you should you should read these first.
Healthy Pets & Happy Clients - SBPH