Is it safe to purchase drugs for your pets from unknown companies online? Can you trust a company that will send you whatever you want, with or without a prescription?
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says consumers should be wary of an online site offering drugs. The agency finds some companies sell unapproved pet drugs and counterfeit pet products, make fraudulent claims and sell expired drugs.
"People who purchase them may think they are saving money, but in reality, they may be shortchanging their pet's health and putting its life at risk," said veterinarian Martine Hartogensis, deputy director of the Office of Surveillance and Compliance in the FDA's Center for Veterinary Medicine.
According to a consumer report issued by the FDA, a foreign or domestic pharmacy may claim that a veterinarian on staff will evaluate the pet after looking over a form filled out by the owner, then prescribe the drug.
"A veterinarian should physically examine an animal prior to making a diagnosis to determine the appropriate therapy," Hartogensis said.
Veterinarians are concerned that there is no oversight for sales especially for a heartworm preventive medication.
If you do purchase your pet's medications online you should at least find out the following, said Dr. Jennifer Coates of Colorado on her blog Fully Vetted:
Make sure the company is based in the United States. U.S. pharmacies are bound and overseen by local, state and federal laws and regulatory agencies. Offshore sites that illegally ship medications into the United States aren't. Look for the pharmacy's physical location and a toll-free or local telephone number on its website.
Internet pharmacies should be licensed by the Board of Pharmacy for the state in which they reside. Enter the company's URL (Internet address) into the LegitScript.com search box to check its status. Many pharmacies also display the LegitScript seal of approval, which indicates that they agree to follow the laws and regulations of their state Board of Pharmacy, the Drug Enforcement Administration, and the Food and Drug Administration.
Look for the Vet-VIPPS (Veterinary-Verified Internet Practice Pharmacy Sites) seal and check the list of Vet-VIPPS pharmacies on AWARERX.ORG. Sites selling pet medications that have the Vet-VIPPS seal are in agreement with all federal and state regulations and National Association of Boards of Pharmacy safety standards.