Many different types of pharmacies carrying pet medications are available, including retail pharmacies and online pet pharmacies, where pet owners may enjoy better pricing and convenience. However, filling pet medications through some emerging sources may put you and your pet at risk.

The Grey Market

Some pharmacies may not purchase their inventory directly from manufacturers but from “diverted” sources on the pet medication grey market. Many manufacturers set strict policies on prescription medication sales that only allow them to sell these products directly to veterinarians and authorized pharmacies. However, shockingly, some authorized buyers of wholesale pet medications may resell medications to grey market buyers.

Diverted medications could be counterfeit, near or past their expiration dates, and they may not have been stored properly which could reduce their effectiveness, according to The Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) 2015 Staff Report. These medications could potentially harm pets and the medications may not provide the same protection or potency of authorized products. 

For a pet medication to be considered authorized, the manufacturer details not only which pharmacies can sell the product but also how those medications are shipped to the pharmacy, completing a fully supported chain of custody. Grey market products do not have a fully supported chain of custody.

Most manufacturers may not support a diverted product if a pet experiences an adverse effect or if the product is ineffective. When pet medications are purchased from an authorized pharmacy, pet medication manufacturers support their products with warranties if the product fails to perform as labeled or causes an adverse reaction in a pet. This support may come in the form of replacement medication or reimbursements directly to the pet owner for costs incurred to have the pet evaluated and treated by a veterinarian for any adverse reaction.

Buyer, Beware of Counterfeit Pet Medicine

When it comes to purchasing pet medications through online or retail pharmacies, buyers should be cautious. While the FDA reports that some websites selling veterinary drugs are legitimate businesses, others are not. In fact, FDA regulators have documented many instances of online pharmacies selling unapproved and counterfeit pet drugs, dispensing of drugs without a required prescription, and sales of expired drugs. According to The Partnership for Safer Medicines, the FDA recommends that pet owners ensure online pharmacies are Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (Vet-VIPPS) accredited.

The FTC 2015 staff report says, “Vet-VIPPS accredited pharmacies [. . .] are required to demonstrate that these products are authentic and originated with the manufacturer.” 

Counterfeit drugs are fake or “copycat” products that can be difficult to differentiate from the real product. With counterfeit drugs, anything goes, and you cannot be certain of the product’s ingredients. Counterfeit medications could have dangerous side effects, wrong ingredients, or contamination. The FDA works with drug manufacturers, wholesalers, and retailers to identify and report counterfeit drugs, and while this helps to protect consumers, it is a nearly impossible task considering the hundreds of online pharmacies available. As counterfeits and questionably purchased products exist in the pet drug marketplace, it is up to pet owners to make sure they are buying the right product.

At Essentials PetCare, we can send your pet’s prescription to an in-store Walmart pharmacy for in person or curbside pickup or to our own online pharmacy for delivery to your home. Both pharmacies receive their pet medications directly from the medications’ manufacturers and authorized distributors.

Need to refill your pet’s prescriptions? Visit us today!