Shopping for pet medications online seems straightforward: search for ‘pet medications’ and hop on the website with the lowest price, right?
Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. People and companies looking to profit from bargain hunters and coupon clippers are shelling out shoddy, expired, or incorrectly mixed medications to shoppers that are in violation of federal and international law – and you could be their next victim.
Shop Safely Under New FDA Regulations
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has caught on to the tactics used by disreputable online pet medication distributors and resellers. They have released to the public an easy-to-remember system for identifying and evaluating online stores that claim to sell and deliver pet medications. It’s called A.W.A.R.E., and it’s a 5 step process that will help shoppers ensure that the medications they buy are legitimate and inspected-- and that the customer’s rights are protected.
The A.W.A.R.E. acronym stands for:
• Ask your veterinarian
Find out from a medical professional if shopping online is right for the needs of your pet. Your pet’s prescription may require supervision by a veterinarian or dosage adjustments, which would eliminate the benefits of shopping online. You can also ask what online pet medication shops your vet recommends if appropriate.
• Watch for Red Flags
Many less-than-legitimate pharmacies will try to hide information or make outrageous claims that sound, and are, too good to be true. Look out for warning signs such as:
o No prescription required
o No licensed pharmacist available
o No relevant contact information (address, phone number)
o Not headquartered in the United States
o Not licensed by a state board
o No identity theft or personal information protection
o Prices that are far too low
o Shipments that don’t match orders
Information listed above should be very easy to either find on the website or obtain from a contact that is simple to locate. If you receive shipments of the wrong medicine or medicines that look different than they should, do not give them to your pet; they could contain dangerous mixes of chemicals or too much or little of the medication your pet needs.
• Always Check for Pharmacy Accreditation
As an added measure for safety and trust, online pet pharmacies can obtain a voluntary accreditation through the Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites program started in 1999 by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP).
Facilities that receive accreditation must be licensed in the state from which their drugs are shipped, complete a review, follow up with a survey, undergo annual review and reaccreditation, and accept on-site surveys every three years.
Take the time to ask your veterinarian about your pet medications and ensure that the online pet pharmacy you’re considering has accredited veterinary pharmacy status.
• Report Problems and Suspicious Online Pet Pharmacies
Pet owners can file reports about adverse reactions to medicine with either the drug manufacturer or the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) by email or phone at 1-888-FDA-VETS. You can also file reports regarding suspicious or fraudulent online pet pharmacies directly to the FDA or NABP.
• Educate Yourself about Online Pet Pharmacy Safety
The FDA recommends taking the time to learn more about online pet pharmacies, especially those who have built a solid online reputation. Compare deeply and think about more than price when attempting to buy medicine for your pets online.
Your veterinarian is your best source of information. He or she has studied animals and animal behavior and likely has years of experience to help lend personal reflection to your pet’s case. Shop carefully and don’t be afraid to seek help when you need it. Most of all, always use every step of the A.W.A.R.E. system to increase your safety every time you shop online for pet medication. If you’re still concerned about safe medication, HelpRx coupons are another way to make pet medications more affordable.