Pet Owners: "be A.W.A.R.E." When Purchasing Pet Medication Online

September 24, 2016
Jenina Pellegren

The US Food and Drug Administration, as part of their Animal Health Literacy campaign, is reminding pet owners to “be A.W.A.R.E.” when purchasing medications for their pets online.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as a part of their Animal Health Literacy campaign, is reminding pet owners to “be A.W.A.R.E.” when purchasing medications for their pets online. Posters, meant to raise public awareness, warn that some internet pet pharmacies could be selling consumers counterfeit medications. Potentially outdated, improperly stored, mislabeled, or unregulated medication can endanger pets. While there are reputable online pet pharmacies, the campaign focuses on the importance of speaking with veterinarians before purchasing pet medications online.

The FDA’s A.WA.R.E. campaign details actions consumers can take to protect themselves and their pets from illegal pet pharmacies:

Always ask your veterinarian before purchasing medications for your pet online. According to the FDA, pet owners should consult their veterinarians to find out if an online pharmacy is appropriate for their particular pet and situation. Pet owners should also find out if the medicine requires additional monitoring and/or adjustments to the dose or whether the timing of doses should be handled under a veterinarian’s care; this can help pet owners determine whether purchasing medications online is the safest option for the pet.

Watch for red flags when dealing with online pet pharmacies; be careful if they do not require a prescription, for example. The FDA says, “Online pharmacies that sell prescription veterinary medicines without requiring a veterinarian’s prescription are breaking the law.” Under the Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act, a pharmacy cannot sell consumers a veterinary-prescribed medicine without a valid prescription from a licensed veterinarian.

Online pharmacies should also list a physical address, phone number, and other contact information that includes the information of licensed professionals who are available to answer consumer questions.

Always check for accreditation. In 2009, the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP) created a voluntary accreditation program called Vet-VIPPS (Veterinary-Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Sites). These online pharmacies are appropriately licensed, undergo yearly reviews and re-accreditation processes, and NABP-conducted on-site surveys every three years.

Report problems when encountering a problem with medications obtained through online pet pharmacies. Consumers can find more information about reporting via the FDA Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM). Both veterinarians and animal owners should report adverse drug and product defects that are associated with animal drugs or devices. “The identities of all persons and animals are held in strict confidence by FDA and are protected to the fullest extent of the law,” according to the FDA.

Education makes empowered consumers. The best defense for pets and their owners is awareness of illegal pet pharmacy practices.

The FDA has extensive educational resources for both veterinarians and consumers via their Animal Health Literacy website.