Protect Yourself and Your Pet: Be Online Pet Pharmacy A.W.A.R.E.
“Affordable pet prescriptions!”
“Pet meds at discount prices!”
“No prescription required!”
“Your best source for pet meds!”
If you’ve ever searched online for prescription pet medicines, you’ve no doubt seen eye-catching, attention-grabbing claims. They sound convincing in their promises of convenience and lower prices. But are these claims always true?
Internet sites that sell pet drugs can be reputable pharmacies. However, others are fronts for businesses breaking Federal, State, and sometimes, International laws. Illegal online pharmacies may sell medicines that are counterfeit, outdated, mislabeled, incorrectly formulated, or improperly made or stored. These medicines may not contain the actual drug, may contain contaminants, or the incorrect amount of drug, may not work as well due to age or being stored in conditions that were too hot, cold, or humid, and may not have the proper directions for use. If you are unhappy with ordered products, illegal online pharmacies may fraudulently leave you with no way to get your money back.
If you still want to purchase your pet’s prescription medicines online, remember you can protect yourself by doing your homework and being online pharmacy A.W.A.R.E.
A— Ask Your Veterinarian
Before you purchase online, talk with your veterinarian! Your veterinarian wants what’s best for you and your pet. Ask your veterinarian questions like, “Do you trust the internet pharmacy site?”, “Have you ever worked with the pharmacy?” “Have other clients used that site? If so, what were their experiences?”
W—Watch for Red Flags
When buying from online pharmacies, keep an eye out for red flags. Be careful if the…
- site does not require veterinary prescriptions for prescription medicines.
Websites that sell prescription veterinary medicines without valid veterinary prescriptions are breaking the law. Under the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act, a pharmacy can’t sell you a veterinary prescription medicine without a valid prescription or other type of order from a licensed veterinarian. Online questionnaires or consults don’t take the place of valid veterinary prescriptions. Sites that sell drugs without requiring valid veterinary prescriptions rob both you and your pet of the protection provided by a veterinary physical exam.
- site has no licensed pharmacist available to answer questions.
Can someone answer your questions about your pet’s medicines?
- site does not list physical business address, phone number, or other contact information.
If something goes wrong with your order, can you get in contact with them?
- site is not based in the United States.
If an out-of-country site fraudulently takes your money, there’s not much the US government can do to help you get your money back.
- site is not licensed by the State Board of Pharmacy where the business is based.
If the business is based in the United States, check to see if it is properly licensed in the State where it is based by contacting that State’s Board of Pharmacy. Contact information for each State Board of Pharmacy is available on the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) website.
- site does not protect your personal information.
Keep yourself safe from identity theft! Make sure the site you use is secure.
- site’s prices are dramatically lower than your veterinarian’s or other websites’ prices.
If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.
- site ships you medicines that you didn’t order or that look very different from what your pet normally takes.
Don’t give these medicines to your pet! Contact the site immediately!
A—Always Check for Site Accreditation
In addition to following Federal and State licensing and inspection requirements, in 2009, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) created a voluntary accreditation program called Vet-VIPPS (Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites). Vet-VIPPS accredited online pharmacies:
- are appropriately licensed in the states from which they ship drugs
- have successfully completed a 19-point review and online survey
- undergo yearly VIPPS review and re-accreditation
- undergo NABP on-site surveys every three years
Vet-VIPPS accredited pharmacies must also meet other strict criteria, including protecting client confidentiality, strict quality assurance, and making sure prescription orders are valid.
R—Report Problems and Suspicious Online Pet Pharmacies
If your pet has a problem with a medicine purchased online (for example, a reaction to the medicine or the medicine not working), first contact the medicine’s maker. To report problems directly to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) call 1-888-FDA-VETS. For a copy of the reporting form (FDA Form 1932a) and for more information on how to report problems, visit the following website:
Protect yourself, your pets, and others! Don’t fall victim to illegal online pet pharmacies. Report suspicious online pet pharmacy sites to the FDA and the NABP at:
E—Educate Yourself about Online Pet Pharmacies
The best defense you have against illegal online pet pharmacies is education. Do your homework and be online pet pharmacy A.W.A.R.E. before you purchase your pet’s medicines online. An informed consumer is an empowered consumer.
For more information about purchasing pet medicines from online pharmacies, visit CVM’s website at:
http://www.fda.gov/AnimalVeterinary, or call CVM at 1-240-276-9300.
Be Online Pet Pharmacy AWARE:
A-Ask your veterinarian
W-Watch for red flags
A-Always check for site accreditation
R-Report problems and suspicious online pet pharmacies
E-Educate yourself about online pet pharmacies