FAQ’s Regarding Internet Pharmacies

With the recent emergence of Internet pharmacies, many pet owners have questions regarding their safety and credibility. The American Veterinary Medical Association appreciates the rising cost of health care for pets as well as humans, but cautions pet owners to be aware of the risks that may be involved. Like you, we and your veterinarian want to ensure the highest quality of care for your animal.

Q: A friend told me about an Internet site that sells drugs for pets, and it’s cheaper than I pay at my veterinarian. Why shouldn’t I order my pet’s drugs over the Internet?

A: Finding a “deal” makes you feel great…like you’ve outsmarted the system. But it’s only a great “deal” if you’re also receiving a quality product. Without quality, lower prices can prove to be a false savings. And sometimes the prices are not lower.

Q: Internet pharmacies sound like a good deal. But some people are against buying drugs from them. Why?

A: A number of problems have been reported, such as sales of pet medications without valid prescriptions. These drugs could pose a health threat to pets, and we’re concerned about the welfare of these animals.

Q: Why can’t I get a prescription from just any veterinarian?

A: For the same reason you can’t walk into any doctor’s office that’s listed in the telephone directory and ask for a prescription for yourself. Because it’s illegal, not to mention unethical, for a veterinarian to authorize a prescription without a valid “veterinarian-client-patient relationship.” In order for you to get a legal prescription, you must be a “patient of record.”

Q: I found an Internet pharmacy that says I don’t need a prescription. Do I?

A: It is illegal and unethical for a pharmacy to send prescription drugs for animals without a valid prescription obtained from your veterinarian.

Q: Well then, how can I find an Internet pharmacy that’s credible?

A: We haven’t found a fool-proof way to assure a “good” pharmacy. That’s why the AVMA supports a program called “VIPPS,” a voluntary certification program created by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. The VIPPS seal of approval identifies those online pharmacies that are, according to NABP, appropriately licensed, are legitimately operating via the Internet, and that have successfully completed a rigorous criteria review and inspection. If you do experience problems, you should report the pharmacy to the Boards of Pharmacy in your state and the pharmacy’s state.

Q: Can my veterinarian tell me if the Internet pharmacy I’m using complies with regulations designed to protect me?

A: No. Veterinarians cannot ensure compliance nor are they obligated to do so.

Q: If I’m still thinking about buying my pet’s medications over the Internet, what should I do?

A: Please be careful. Insist on the same quality that you would expect from your veterinary clinic or from your neighborhood pharmacy. Your pet deserves nothing less.

Q: What else can I do?

A: Talk to your veterinarian. He or she wants to offer both convenience and good will, and is likely to offer you some assurance about the legitimacy and safety of his/her medication.
This information has been compiled by AVMA Scientific Activities Division staff.