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For many people, their pets are a part of the family. And when that family member gets sick, they want to do all they can to help their furry or feathery friend. But U.S. Food and Drug Administration said that, if you plan to purchase medications for pets online, use caution.
Though there are Internet sites that represent legitimate pharmacies, the FDA has found that there are others that sell unapproved pet drugs and counterfeit pet products, make fraudulent claims, dispense prescription drugs without requiring a prescription, and sell expired drugs. Any of these practices could mean that the products you are buying could be unsafe or ineffective for your pet.
In general, the FDA regulates the manufacture and distribution of animal drugs, while individual state pharmacy boards regulate the dispensing of prescription veterinary products. If an online pharmacy does not require a prescription from a veterinarian before filling any order for prescription drugs, that’s a red flag.
Here are some other things to consider when looking at sites offering pet medications, from the FDA’s website:
Look for pharmacy websites ending in “.Pharmacy.” You may be used to looking for the Vet-VIPPS seal on your pharmacy’s website. But as of late August, 2017, that no longer holds true. Instead, you should look for pharmacy websites ending in “.Pharmacy.” Under the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy new Pharmacy Verified Websites Program, pharmacies must meet strict standards for enrollment. Once accepted, they are given “.Pharmacy” website addresses to help you quickly identify trustworthy, worldwide online pharmacies and pharmacy-related websites, so you can safely make purchases.
Order from an outsourced prescription management service that your veterinarian uses. 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. Ask your veterinary hospital if it uses an Internet pharmacy service.
But first, consult your veterinarian. An online foreign or domestic pharmacy may claim that one of its veterinarians on staff will “evaluate” the pet after looking over a form filled out by the pet owner, and then prescribe the drug. But that could be a sign that the pharmacy isn’t legitimate. Written information—without a physical examination of your animal—may omit important clues to your animal’s condition, and is no substitute for a vet physically examining your animal.
The FDA is especially concerned that pet owners are going online to buy two types of commonly used veterinary drugs that require a prescription — heartworm preventives, such as Heartgard, Trifexis and Interceptor; and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as Rimadyl or Metacam.
Heartworm disease is a potentially fatal condition transmitted by the bite of a mosquito that is carrying larvae of the heartworm parasite. Dogs, cats, and ferrets can get heartworm disease. Heartworm preventives, given daily, monthly, or semiannually, depending on the product, kill the larvae before they become adult worms.
The American Heartworm Society recommends that you get your pet tested every 12 months for heartworm and give your pet heartworm preventive 12 months a year.
Veterinarians often prescribe NSAIDs to relieve pain in pets. You should not buy NSAIDS on the Internet without a veterinarian’s involvement.