Friday, October 5, 2007

The Dirty Truth About Online Pet Med Companies

Several months ago, our drug rep for Merial, a very prominent animal health care pharmaceutical, was in my hospital giving the staff a learning seminar about their flea and tick product, Frontline. What prompted Rob to come in educate the staff about Frontline, was the fact that I had mentioned to him on one of his visits that I was seeing an increased number of patients that were having flea and tick troubles despite having Frontline applied as directed.

The first premise that he discussed is that the first question that we should ask the client when Frontline fails, is where he or she is purchasing the product. The reason Rob brought this up is that Merial does not sell to online pharmacies, but deal only directly with veterinarians. Since they refuse to stock these pharmacies, the pet medications they sell must come from overseas.

These overseas products do not undergo the scrutiny of the USDA as a result lack quality control. This leads to products that are not what they claim to be, and are even found to be outright counterfeits. Merial is legally powerless to stop this, since apparently our government does not care about the health of its citizens' pets (overseas prescription medication is expressly forbidden in human medicine). As a result, Merial, as well as many other animal health pharmaceuticals, refuse to guarantee the safety and effectiveness of their medications and preventives that are purchased online.

Frontline is an excellent product with a great reputation, and for it to fail is unusual and usually because the pets' environment is heavily saturated with fleas and/or ticks. As my staff and I began to examine cases of failure of Frontline effectiveness, we found the a large percentage of Frontline failures were from Frontline that was purchased from online pharmacies.

Once we came to this realization, we became concerned about how potentially dangerous it would be for for a patient to be on an ineffective or counterfeit heartoworm preventive, especially here in Florida where the disease is so prevalent. In the three years that I have practiced in Florida, there have been a handful of cases where dogs have gotten heartworm disease despite being on a reputable brand name preventive. I can only wonder if any of these cases were the result of patients being treated with preventive purchased from online pharmacies. I certainly plan to keep track of this in such future cases.

As a result of all this, I found a company called vetcentric that has set up an online pharmacy for my hospital (Maybeck Animal Hospital VetStore). Pet medication pharmaceuticals readily sell to Vetcentric, since they represent animal clinics directly. Not having to pay inventory costs to offer the items, I can offer the pet meds at a discounted price, often competitive with online pharmacies. Also, the clients still get the benefit of home delivery, but the product they recieve comes from the USA based manufacturers, complete with the manufacturer guarantee of safety and effectiveness.

Roger L. Welton, DVM

No comments: