Online Medication Purchases – What are the risks?

In the past decade, online purchases of all types of items have significantly increased. While this makes life more convenient, there are some items that just shouldn’t be purchased online such as pet medication and food items.

What concerns are there in purchasing online medication? It’s the “same thing” you get through the veterinary clinic, isn’t it?  Unfortunately, this statement is completely FALSE. According to the FDA, here are the reasons why online medication purchases are not a safe option for your pet:

1. Medication manufacturers do not sell to online pharmacies. This is because there is no doctor/patient relationship. The manufacturers of drugs actually do want you (the pet owner) to know whether their product is the right choice for your pet’s needs. And, they want you to know exactly how to use their product correctly.

a. Manufacturer’s do teach doctors about their products and the right way to use them. Then doctors, in turn, recommend the right product for your pets age, health status, and lifestyle. They also teach you how to use the product as it was intended.

2. Manufacturers only sell directly to doctors. So, how do these online pharmacies get their products? Sadly, it’s called the “Black Market”.

  1. They will use retired veterinary clinics accounts to place their orders.
  2. They buy products that were meant to be sold overseas, and have instructions in French or Spanish, etc.
  3. Worse yet, they make their own product that looks exactly like the real one, but doesn’t actually have any medicine in it. Shocking but true!
  4. They get ahold of products that have expired and were meant to be destroyed, and they change the expiration date and sell it to you online
  5. Many drugs or preventative products are temperature sensitive. Some of these products spend months in a hot/ cold warehouse before being sold to an online clinic and then to you. The product is not only rendered ineffective by being stored improperly, but it may now be altered and toxic to your pet.
  6. There are all kinds of devious ways they get their hands on these products, and you the consumer have no idea what you are buying, because it does “look just like the product you bought at the vet clinic”

3. Warnings from Drug Manufacturers about online pharmaceutical purchases:

  1. The drugs inside the bottle may be mislabeled or the wrong drug.
  2. The drugs may be outdated.
  3. The drugs may have been stored improperly.
  4. The drugs may be diluted.
  5. The drugs may be counterfeit.It might not even be the correct drug in the bottle/package.

4. Online Pharmacy Credit Card Fraud

  1. When dealing with any online purchase, there is also the concern about credit card fraud. You enter your card to buy your products and the number gets sold for fraudulent use.

5. Online purchases are not guaranteed.

  1. IF your dog is on Frontline or Nexgard, and gets a flea infestation, it is guaranteed and the company will pay for treatments.
  2. IF your dog is on Heartgard year-round, and your dog tests positive for heartworm, the manufacturer will pay for your treatment ($2000 cost, generally, to treat this disease).
  3. The manufacturer doesn’t guarantee a product that is purchased online because they simply don’t know what has happened to that product from the time it is purchased from them, and ended up in your home. Was it properly stored? Do you have the right size for your pets’ weight? Is it being administered appropriately?
  4. If the product is purchased from a trained professional, it is guaranteed to protect your pet.

Reputable drug companies such as Boehringer Ingelheim Animal Health who manufacturer HeartGard and Nexgard, offer product guarantee’s backing up their products. For example, the NexGard Lyme Satisfaction Guarantee was recently launched and includes the following:

  • Guarantee Requirements:
    • Need negative Lyme test within one month of starting NexGard; puppies under 4 months of age starting NexGard do not need to be tested to be guaranteed for the first year.
    • Must have purchases supporting year-round use of NexGard from the date of the last negative test till the day of diagnosis
  • Support:
    • Additional testing with either Cornell Multiplex or IDEXX Quant C6, as well as a urinalysis and urine protein/creatinine test
    • Reimbursement for treatment with antibiotics
    • Additional reasonable diagnostic and treatment up to $5000.00 (“reasonable” will be decided in consult with VTS)
  • If the dog is also vaccinated with Recombitek Lyme
    • Support limit rises to $10,000

Since you are going through the expense, and most certainly have the desire, to help protect your pet from fleas/ticks and heartworm, please be certain that the products you are purchasing to protect your pet, don’t end up hurting them instead.