Websites that tout “Discount pet drugs — no prescription required” may appeal to cost-conscious pet owners surfing the Web, but experts at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration say “Buyer beware.”
Pet owners who purchase drugs from these companies may think they are saving money, but in reality, they may be buying expired, unapproved or counterfeit drugs that put their pet’s life at risk, says Martine Hartogensis, D.V.M., deputy director of the Office of Surveillance and Compliance in FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.
The good news? There are simple ways to shop safely online for pet medicines. Follow these tips:
Skip sites that claim to diagnose pets. Some sites claim one of its veterinarians on staff will “evaluate” the pet after looking over a form filled out by the pet owner. “A veterinarian should physically examine an animal prior to making a diagnosis to determine the appropriate therapy,” Hartogensis says.
Get a prescription from your dog’s veterinarian. Some foreign Internet pharmacies advertise that veterinary prescription drugs are available to U.S. citizens without a prescription. But, Hartogensis says, “There is a risk of the drugs not being FDA-approved.”
Order from a website that belongs to a Vet-VIPPS accredited pharmacy. Vet-VIPPS — the Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites—is a voluntary accreditation program of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP). NABP gives the Vet-VIPPS seal to online pharmacies that dispense prescription animal drugs and comply with NABP’s strict criteria, including federal and state licensing and inspection requirements, protecting patient confidentiality, quality assurance and validity of prescription orders. Look for the Vet-VIPPS seal displayed on a pharmacy’s website or check with NABP to find out if a pharmacy is Vet-VIPPS accredited.
Ask your veterinary clinic or hospital if it uses an Internet pharmacy service. These state-licensed Internet pharmacy services work directly with the veterinarian, require that a prescription be written by the veterinarian and support the veterinarian-client-patient relationship.