We recognize that certain pet supplies and medications are available to our clients from many sources – internet pharmacies, farm supply stores, pet stores, and even big box retailers like Walmart. We also recognize that as consumers, many of our clients are trying to keep their costs down. While there are many options out there, we would encourage our clients to be very careful where they obtain their pets medications because “all medication sources are not created equal” and the differences can have significant impacts on your pet’s health.
While there are reputable online pharmacies out there, there are far more that are disreputable, skirt or violate laws and regulations designed to protect the pet and the client, and in some cases are outright fraudulent.
Some issues that our clients are frequently unaware of include:
Products that are found on online pharmacies and other outlets are commonly “diverted”, which means they are sold outside the normal distribution channels and often have gone through multiple exchanges before reaching the pharmacy or retail outlet. How these products have been handled/stored during this process is completely unknown or unverifiable, and usually these outlets will not or cannot divulge where they obtain their products.
Many websites have been known to advertise name brand products but then substitute veterinary products from other countries – which is illegal. The handling and storage of these products again is unregulated and at times formulations may be different.
Some diverters have been guilty of repackaging veterinary products, wiping away quality control or tracking data, expiration dates etc. Therefore, the quality and efficacy of these products can be completely compromised.
All manufacturer warranties for veterinary prescription and non-prescription medications are voided when obtained from “diverted” sources. For example, most reputable heartworm preventative manufacturers will pay for the cost of heartworm treatment should your pet contract heartworm disease when it has been tested negative and regularly been on the medication. An online pharmacy may say they “guarantee” the quality of a heartworm medicine, but if your dog gets heartworm disease because their product failed – often all they will do is refund the purchase price of the product, leaving you to absorb the much higher costs of treating the disease and potential side effects.
Many of the heartworm and flea products we carry have manufacturer’s coupons or rebates that allow us to be quite price competitive with online pharmacies. Our online pharmacy has access and authorization to provide these discounts while “diversion channels” are ineligible for these.
For a further discussion of these issues, we would recommend going to the following website for consumer warnings from the FDA regarding internet pharmacies and diversion.
Due to these issues, we caution all of our clients to have a “Buyer Beware” attitude toward non-traditional distribution methods and vendors. If a vendor is offering a product way below the normal price point – you should be very suspicious. Make sure they are licensed to do business in your state and can provide that documentation as proof. Our online pharmacy gets their products from well-established and traceable pathways and most often directly from the manufacturer.
If one of our clients wishes to purchase prescription veterinary products (heartworm preventatives, antibiotics etc.) from another source and that source does not require a prescription for that product they are violating the law and we would STRONGLY recommend you avoid them. If they are a legitimate pharmacy, they will forward a prescription verification request to us at Well Pets. This process then involves us retrieving the patient chart, verifying the pharmacy or vendor is legitimate and properly licensed, verifying the prescription is appropriate and accurate, and filling out paperwork or calling the pharmacy to authorize the prescription. This involves time and effort for our staff and therefore we assess a fee of $12 for the first prescription and $6 for any additional prescriptions done at that time. These “records processing and verification fees” are not charged when products are purchased through Well Pets online pharmacy (click here to go to the Well Pets Pharmacy), mailed from our office, or purchased at a clinic location. We feel this is a reasonable accommodation that allows our clients to take advantage of a significant savings opportunity when it exists, yet allows us to be compensated for the time and effort necessary to facilitate that process. We do not issue written prescriptions as we consider this verification process essential for guarding the well-being of your pet – our first and most significant responsibility.
We encourage our clients to call our office if they have questions about product pricing, as we are often able to be quite price-competitive through a combination of rebates or incentives. However, the policy and fees are non-negotiable, so please do not call to argue or debate it with our staff as they have no authority to change or void it. We appreciate your understanding.
Dr. Scott Emch