Avoid the Pitfalls of Internet Pet Pharmacies
A variety of items can be purchased on the Internet. Even your pet’s medicine can be bought on-line. Pet pharmacy websites promise home shopping with big savings. However, it is important that the site you choose is safe and legal. Several states have fined two of the more popular web-based pet pharmacies in the past year. Many on-line pharmacies are trustworthy and may be a solution to rising pet health costs.
ORDERING OFF THE WEB
The ordering process is the same at most Internet pet pharmacies. A brief form asks for your personal information-name, address, phone number, e-mail address, and pet’s name. Some sites also want to know about your pet’s health. You will need to mail or fax the prescription for the medicine to the company. Some sites offer to call your veterinarian for the prescription. The delivery is quickest with a faxed prescription and credit card payment.
PROBLEMS WITH INTERNET VETERINARY PHARMACIES
“Alternate Veterinarian” Programs
Some Internet pet pharmacies have been in trouble because of “Alternate Veterinarian” programs. These programs have a veterinarian working for the pharmacy who writes a prescription for your pet. By law, your pet must be examined before getting medicine. These programs are not legal since the pet is not seen before receiving the medicine. Florida has fined two on-line pharmacies because of this practice. These pharmacies are on probation in Missouri. Most Internet pet pharmacies based in the United States do not offer this program.
Dispensing Foreign Drugs
Another problem with on-line pharmacies is that they may not be selling drugs approved in the US. A US drug company recently sued three Internet pet pharmacies for selling foreign drugs. These products have different strengths and labeling than US products. Look closely at medicine ordered from an Internet pet pharmacy. “Caution: Federal law restricts this drug to use by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian” should be printed on the box or label. Do not use a product if it does not have this warning. Instead, tell your veterinarian so they can report this to the proper officials.
TIPS ON USING INTERNET VETERINARY PHARMACIES
“VIPPS Seal of Approval
One way to check an Internet pharmacy’s reputation is to look for the VIPPS seal of approval. VIPPS stands for Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites. It is a service of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. The VIPPS web site (www.nabp.net) lists qualifying on-line pharmacies.
Look for signs of good customer service before buying off the Internet. The pharmacy should be easy to contact. The site should list an address and phone number as well as an e-mail address. You have a choice of mailing or faxing prescriptions to most Internet pharmacies. Some sites offer a prescription form to print for use by your veterinarian. Most of the pharmacies can call your veterinarian directly.
“Filing a Complaint
Report complaints about an Internet pet pharmacy to your state Attorney General’s office or Board of Pharmacy. In Missouri, you can reach both of these on the state’s web site (www.state.mo.us). In case of problems, always print any forms and order confirmations from the web site. Keep copies of letters or e-mails to the pharmacy. Also document any phone calls concerning your order.
“Working With Your Veterinarian
Even though Internet pharmacies may offer cheaper prices, it is important to work with your veterinarian. Explain your wish to save money while providing care for your pet. Assure your veterinarian that your pet will still come in for regular check-ups. He will be more likely to help you get your pet’s medicine from the Internet if you are honest about your reasons. After all, medicine isn’t going to keep your pet healthy if you cannot afford it.
When ordering medicine on the Internet for your pet, check for signs that the pharmacy is safe and legal. Contact your veterinarian or your state’s Board of Pharmacy if you notice anything questionable on the website or about the medicine. By maintaining a good relationship with your veterinarian and choosing a reputable Internet pharmacy, you will be able to provide good medical care for your pet.
By Sherrill Brown, Doctor of Pharmacy Candidate, 2003 Kansas City School of Pharmacy, University of Missouri Kansas City, Missouri
© 2002 Consumer Health Information Corporation. All rights reserved.