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Why You Shouldn’t Buy from Online Pet Pharmacies

Owning a pet is one of life’s great experiences, the joy and happiness that a pet can bring is amazing. Unfortunately, pets can also be quite expensive – food bills, vet bills, grooming and hygiene not to mention the countless toys and treats you’ll probably end up buying for your pet!

As such pet owners often look for ways to cut the costs of pet ownership – ideas such as making your own pet food or learning how to groom your pet yourself are great ways to save money. Buying medication from online pharmacies is not.

Online pet pharmacies are rapidly growing, making huge profits each year but are you aware of the dangers of buying from these pharmacies?

Stopping people buying pet medication online is not going to be easy, but the VMD (the veterinary body responsible for monitoring animal pharmaceuticals) does intend to provide an online platform where people can safely buy medications online. They intend to accredit online pharmacies that meet their strict safety regulations – buyers can then be confident in the knowledge that they are dealing with a genuine supplier from whom they can safely make a purchase.

If you have seen the same medication online at a cheaper price, take a couple of minutes to tell your vet – they will advise you on the dangers of buying online and may even reduce their price for you!

What are the Dangers of Buying Pet Medications Online?

A typical scenario is, a pet owner visits their vet who then prescribes medication for the pet. The medication is bought from the vet at a price decided by that particular practice. If the owner does a little research on the Internet, they will probably find the medication online at a cheaper price. So why is this a bad thing – especially for owners treating pets with chronic illnesses, which require long-term treatment?

Online Safety and Security – A risk that all online shoppers face is the safety and security of their purchase. When you make a purchase online, you are handing over your personal card details, which can be used by fraudsters. Whilst this is uncommon online, when making purchases on less reputable sites, such as online pharmacies, the risk increases.

No Veterinary Control Over Repeat Prescriptions – It is possible to buy repeat prescriptions online, without veterinary approval. This can lead to owners continually purchasing repeat prescriptions without veterinary guidance. Some medications shouldn’t be prescribed continually and without veterinary guidance, this can’t be controlled.

Possible Use of Unauthorised Veterinary Medicinal Products – In the UK, veterinary medicines are subject to strict guidelines and must first obtain ‘Marketing authorisation’ from the VMD before they can be sold. To obtain marketing authorisation, the VMD assesses both the product and the facilities that produce it before the product can be sold. When buying online, it is possible to purchase medicines that do not have marketing authorisation and may therefore be unsafe!

Surveillance & Adverse Reaction Reporting – Although all pharmaceutical products must undergo rigorous testing (both human and animal) there is still always the possibility that rare, unknown side effects could arise. In a normal situation, the vet would pick up on any adverse reactions and report this to the appropriate governing bodies – this helps to improve the safety of pharmaceuticals and remove potentially unsafe ones from market. When purchasing online, you cut out the vet and lose all the advice and experience that they provide.

Liability and Responsibility – If the worst were to happen and your pet suffered a severe adverse reaction to a drug, under normal circumstances you have the experience of a qualified vet and the safety of pet insurance to help you and your pet through the whole situation. If the medication was purchased online, although you will eventually be able to get help from the vet, you are unlikely to receive financial help from your insurance company.

Counterfeits – More commonly that you might hope, counterfeit human medicines are sold online. Whilst counterfeits on pet pharmacies are less common, there is always the danger that what you are giving to your pet isn’t what you think it is. Counterfeit medicines can contain essentially anything – at best you can hope that the medicine does nothing or has a reduced beneficial effect, but at worst, some counterfeits could actually harm your pet.

The Benefits of Buying from Your Vet

Although you may end up paying slightly more by buying your pet’s medication from your vet, you are safe in the knowledge that you can both trust what they are giving your pet and you have their experience and expert knowledge to guide your pet to recovery. If you have seen the same medication online at a cheaper price, take a couple of minutes to tell your vet – they will advise you on the dangers of buying online and may even reduce their price for you!

Your Thoughts

Do you use online pharmacies for your pet’s medication? Do you intend to continue to use them? What are you thoughts and what do you think vets can do to help the situation?

Do you have an online pharmacy horror story? If so we’d like you hear from you – you can get in touch with us here.


About James Watts

BSc Bioveterinary Science. Editor of PetSci. When I'm not writing, learning, discussing, or reading about animals, you know it's the weekend! Currently developing PetSci HealthTrak, the fast and easy way to monitor your pet's weight and calorie intake. HealthTrak offers a simple way to track your pet's progress, helping them achieve a healthy weight and a long, happy life.

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One comment

  1. I buy all my pet’s medication online, and it is perfectly safe. The Veterinarian trade has spent a lot of time trying to discourage people from buying online, not because of safety issues, but because of economics. Even with the massive saving (not slight as suggested here at all), vets still whack an unpleasant charge for the prescription itself, so you are in fact paying three times – for the ‘consultation’, the prescription, and then the medication. Even including all those, I still make a 50% saving on all the medication, because it is only a third of the price the vet charges.

    I do not mind paying for a vet’s expertise – what I object to is being systematically ripped off through medication inflation – which is why I use an online supplier!

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