MyPetsDoctor.com has, for years, had safety, efficacy, authenticity and purity concerns about medications purchased online. We have listed our concerns in a previous post.
The FDA has concluded that “Whenever your pet needs prescription medicines, your veterinarian is your best, most reliable source…”
Now the federal government is expressing its concerns on their Web site with a new program called A.W.A.R.E. The acronym stands for Ask Your Veterinarian, Watch For Red Flags, Always Check For Site Accreditation, Report Problems And Suspicious Online Pharmacies and Educate Yourself About Online Pharmacies. Below we have listed the aspects of each part.
ASK YOUR VETERINARIAN
Before you purchase online, talk with your veterinarian! Your veterinarian supports you and wants what’s best for both you and your pet. Ask your veterinarian questions, like:
- “Do you trust the internet pharmacy site?”
- “Have you ever worked with the company?”
- “Have other clients used that site?”
- If any of the answers are “yes,” what were your veterinarian’s experiences?
WATCH FOR RED FLAGS
When buying from online pharmacies, keep an eye out for red flags. Be careful if the:
• Site does not require veterinary prescriptions for prescription drug orders. Web sites that sell prescription veterinary medicines without valid veterinary prescriptions for them are breaking the law. Under the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act, a pharmacy can’t sell you a veterinary prescription drug without a valid prescription or other type of order from a licensed veterinarian. Online questionnaires or consults don’t take the place of valid veterinary prescriptions. Sites that sell drugs without requiring valid veterinary prescriptions rob both you and your pet of the protection provided by a veterinary physical exam.
• Site has no licensed pharmacist available to answer questions. Can someone answer your questions about your pet’s medicines?
• Site does not list physical business address, phone number, or other contact information. If something goes wrong with your order, can you get in contact with them?
• Site is not based in the US. If an out-of-country site fraudulently takes your money, there’s not much the US government can do to help you get your money back.
• Site is not licensed by the State Board of Pharmacy where the business is based. If the business is based in the US, check to see if it is properly licensed in the State where it is based by contacting that State’s Board of Pharmacy. Contact information for each State Board of Pharmacy is available on the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) website“
• Site does not protect your personal information. Keep yourself safe from identity theft! Make sure the site you use is secure.
• Site’s prices are dramatically lower than your veterinarian’s or other websites’ prices. If it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.
• Site ships you medicine that you didn’t order or that looks very different from what your pet normally takes. Don’t give these medicines to your pet! Contact the site immediately!
Always Check For Site Accreditation
In addition to following Federal and State licensing and inspection requirements, in 2009, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) created a voluntary accreditation program called Vet-VIPPS (Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites). Vet-VIPPS accredited online pharmacies:
• are appropriately licensed in each state where they ship drugs
• have successfully completed a 19-point review and online survey
• undergo yearly VIPPS review and re-accreditation
• undergo NABP on-site surveys every three years
Vet-VIPPS accredited pharmacies must also meet other strict criteria, including protecting patient confidentiality, quality assurance, and validity of prescription orders.
Report Problems And Suspicious Online Pharmacies
If your pet has a problem with a medicine purchased online (for example, a reaction to the medicine or the medicine not working), first contact the medicine’s maker. To report adverse drug events directly to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) call 1-888-FDA-VETS. For a copy of the reporting form (FDA Form 1932a) and for more information on how to report problems, visit the following website.
Educate Yourself About Online Pharmacies
The best defense you have against illegal online pharmacies is education. Do your homework and be online pharmacy A.W.A.R.E. before you purchase your pet’s medicines online. An informed consumer is an empowered consumer.
For more information about purchasing pet medicines from online pharmacies, visit CVM’s website or call CVM at 1-240-276-9300.
Whenever your pet needs prescription medicines, your veterinarian is your best, most reliable source, because your veterinarian:
• physically examined your pet and knows your pet’s medical and treatment history,
• knows which medicines are safest for your pet,
• educates you about potential side effects associated with your pet’s medicines,
• shows you how to properly use the medicines prescribed for your pet,
• stores prescription medicines in the clinic according to label directions, and
• uses current, unexpired medicines.