The dangers posed by online pharmacies and the drugs they sell is becoming increasingly well known. However, consumers may overlook the fact that they are dealing with unscrupulous individuals when they buy pet medication over the internet.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says that it has found a number of illegal online pharmacies that peddle pet medications, according to an FDA release.
These businesses may sell consumers unapproved or counterfeit drugs, make false claims, sell pet medication without requiring a prescription and dispense expired drugs, warns the FDA.
Many of these foreign internet pharmacies say that they can sell pet drugs without requiring a prescription and may even claim that they have a vet on staff who will examine information provided about the animal. However, buying medication in such a way can be dangerous.
“A veterinarian should physically examine an animal prior to making a diagnosis to determine the appropriate therapy,” says Dr. Martine Hartogensis, deputy director of the Office of Surveillance and Compliance in FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM).
The FDA’s CVM is becoming alarmed that many people are buying common types of pet medications from illegal online pharmacies, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and heartworm medication.
Hartogensis says that such medication should only be given to an animal if a vet has examined it.
“Both drugs can be dangerous if there is no professional involvement,” says Hartogensis. “It’s not generally a concern if the owner uses a legitimate online pharmacy and mails in a prescription from their veterinarian, who is monitoring the animal. But if there is no veterinarian–client–patient relationship, it’s a dangerous practice.”
The FDA suggests that consumers protect themselves from mistakenly giving their pets dangerous or counterfeit drugs by ordering drugs from an online pharmacy that has been certified by the Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites (Vet-VIPPS). Vet-VIPPS is a voluntary accreditation program of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP).
According to the FDA, the “NABP gives the Vet-VIPPS seal to online pharmacies that dispense prescription animal drugs and comply with NABP’s strict criteria, including federal and state licensing and inspection requirements, protecting patient confidentiality, quality assurance and validity of prescription orders.”
The NABP also runs a VIPPS program that certifies online pharmacies that sell medication for humans. Consumers can ensure they are being safe by purchasing drugs over the internet from a source that is VIPPS certified and can verify the authenticity of their internet pharmacy by using legitscript.com.