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Are drugs purchased over the Internet safe for your pets?

By Kathy Antoniotti Akron Beacon Journal (MCT) • Dec 17, 2015 at 5:56 PM

Are drugs purchased over the Internet safe for your pets?

I recently got into a discussion with an old friend about the wisdom of purchasing his pet’s drugs online.

Last year I ran into a problem when my dog had a bad reaction to a heartworm prevention medication I purchased from my veterinarian.

I wanted to keep him on his old medication, but my veterinarian could not provide the product. I thought it might be necessary to buy it over the Internet or from a local pharmacy. She was happy to provide the prescription, but she was concerned about where the product was sourced no matter where I bought it unless it was from a licensed vet.

With all the horrors I’ve heard about pet food sourced in China, I shared her concern.

Her office manager, Sue, (who happens to be my dogs’ favorite human in the world) offered to find the old medication from another veterinarian and pick it up for me.

But it wasn’t until last week that I gave the prescription issue another thought.

What are the concerns of purchasing drugs from unknown companies over the Internet? Can you trust a company that will send you whatever you want, with or without a prescription? And the final test: Would you give your child or any loved one medication without knowing if it is safe?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says consumers should be wary of an online site offering drugs. The agency finds companies that 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,” said Hartogensis.

Veterinarians are concerned that there is no oversight for sales especially for a heartworm preventative.

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 U.S. 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.

—And finally, 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.

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