We've all been there. The bills have been mounting but life continues to move on in other ways, including pets that perhaps don't feel well. So, you're scrolling the internet and you see an ad that claims, “Discount pet drugs—no prescription required”. Even though we all understand the appeal of this, FDA experts say it can be risky to buy drugs online from sites that tout this message and others like it. We explore the reasons you should avoid hitting the web for your pets’ prescriptions in order to keep your animal friends safe in this post.

Why Are Online Pet Prescriptions Unsafe?

1. They Are Unauthorized Vendors

The only authorized vendors of these products are veterinarians. Unauthorized retailers - including pet stores, catalogs, and certain internet pharmacies - are not obtaining their products from the manufacturer, as manufacturers maintain a strict policy of selling products exclusively through practicing licensed veterinarians.

2. Online Pet Prescriptions Are Not Guaranteed

The FDA has found companies that sell unapproved pet drugs and counterfeit pet products, that make fraudulent claims, that dispense prescription drugs without requiring a prescription, and that sell expired drugs. Only the prescriptions you buy from your vet are 100% guaranteed from the manufacturer.

3. Reselling Products Risks Making Them Unsafe

Some internet and catalog goods can be second, third, or even fourth-hand products. During the process of reselling, these prescriptions may have been stored under improper conditions. There is no temperature control and there is no regulatory agency to inspect how these products have been handled. Extreme temperature changes during shipping can dramatically impact the effectiveness of these products.

4. The Prescriptions May Not Be Made in the US

Some of the medications being sold from these unauthorized sources are made for foreign markets; and these foreign medicines are not approved by the FDA for sale in the United States. They may be materially different from the US products in a number of ways, including their purity and potency. These are not the same products. These counterfeit products are packaged in retail cartons and are designed to look similar to the legitimate drug. The manufacturers are currently fighting to stop the import of these potentially dangerous and ineffective products.

5. Some Online Pharmacies Are Legitimate But Are They Worth the Risk?

The FDA affirms that some online pharmacies may be legitimate. However, the Administration also warns us to watch these pharmacies for red flags. Outdated or expired medications may be labeled incorrectly. Combination drugs may have outdated or misformulated components. In addition, you may not be able to get a refund if you are not happy with the product for these or other reasons.

6. Only Prescriptions From Veterinarians Are Guaranteed

All ethical veterinarians will assure you that any prescription medications (as well as any flea and tick and heartworm products) at their practices have been inspected and approved by the FDA and have been purchased from the manufacturer. The goal of any upstanding veterinarian is to partner with you in your pet's health care which includes adhering to proper standards in the purchase, storage, and administration of your pet's medications. It also includes making sure your pet is getting the correct medication and that it is labeled correctly with dispensing directions.

How to Save Money On Pet Prescriptions in a Safe Manner

If money is an issue, talk to your veterinarian about the possibility of getting manufacturers' promotions, rebates, and coupons, which can mean more savings. Many vets will also mail you your pets’ prescriptions for an additional shipping charge. At Brook-Falls Veterinary Hospital, we want your pet to have the safest, up-to-date medications available for their needs. We keep many medications in stock for your convenience and we also have our own online store that is directly tied to our computer for timely home delivery of medications. We will happily call a prescription into a local pharmacy for you. We will NOT fax, call, or approve over-the-phone prescriptions for any online pharmacy apart from our own. Our practice has had problems with many different online pharmacies sending incorrect, outdated, or foreign medications to our clients. If you want to use an online pharmacy, we will print a special paper prescription that you can mail to the pharmacy of your choice AT YOUR OWN RISK. Listed below are good resource links from the FDA regarding the purchasing of medication for your pet. Your pet’s health is of the utmost importance to us. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions or concerns.

Counterfeit Medicine: Click here to read more from the FDA

Internet Pharmacy Warning Letters: Click here to read more from the FDA

How To Buy Medicines Safely From an Online Pharmacy: Click here to read more from the FDA