Sunday, August 29, 2010
An unbiased look at online discount pet medication retailers.
In this episode:
- An unbiased look and online discount pet medication retailers.
- Green energy technology show case: Geothermal energy.
Transcript of this week's episode of The Web-DVM:
Greetings pet lovers, and welcome back to another edition of The Web-DVM. As promised, I will be showcasing a cutting edge green energy technology today, but first, let us delve right into the main topic of our show this evening. Folks, it is no secret that economic times are tough. I know for me, it feels like this recession has no end in sight, a recession that is the worst I have seen in my lifetime, and according to most experts, the worst economic recession since the Great Depression. During these difficult financial times, many families have been forced to make tough choices, cut costs where ever possible, and may have turned to discount online pet medication pharmacies to save what they can on pet medication expenses.
We see commercials, countless web ads, and of course word of mouth knowledge of the multibillion dollar a year online discount pet med industry. 1-800-PetMeds may be the most familiar corporation, but believe me when I tell you, there are MANY, MANY more. Pet Med Express, EntirelyPets.com, and DrsFosterandSmith.com, are just a few large retailers getting their share of discount pet med business. Attracted by the generally lower prices, discount pet med retailers enjoy a big chunk of the pet owning public's business.
The question remains, however, is it safe to use these online discount pet med retailers? Does a lower cost for pet medications mean less quality? Do you really get the medication as advertised? Having so many middle stops from manufacturer to storage warehouse, then finally to customer, does this compromise the integrity of the medications? These are all questions that I will address in this article.
Let me start by explaining that the majority of pet medication pharmaceuticals do not condone the sale of their products online. They do not sell to discount pet med retailers, as they do not want their products handled and sold by them. Pharmaceuticals feel so strongly about this, that they actually submitted a class action law suit against these discount online pet medication retailers in early 2000s trying to legally bar them from carrying and selling their products, one that they lost. In response, pharmaceuticals armed veterinarians with literature and information for us to educate the public as to why it is a bad idea to purchase pet medications from discount retailers, or from anyone that is not a veterinarian or veterinary clinic, period. One recent exception to this general pharmaceutical policy is Bayer. No longer willing to keep out of the multibillion dollar a year discount pet med industry, they recently rescinded their stance against the condoning of the sale of their products by any venue outside of a veterinary clinic. The rest, however, remain steadfast in their stance against pet meds sold outside of vet clinics.
So what is the reason for the big corporate stance against allowing products to be sold outside of veterinary clinics? Pharmaceuticals are after all in the business of making money, and what better way to sell their products than through increasingly popular discount retailers? The reason comes down to a simple two words, “quality control.”
You see, when a pharmaceutical sells their products to veterinary clinics, it is done so in a very controlled fashion. The products are stored with distributors that store the products as dictated by the pharmaceuticals. Specifically, they are kept at a certain temperature and humidity, handled with a certain amount of care, all geared at maintaining the integrity of the product through handling parameters clearly specified by the pharmaceutical and based on the chemical make up of the given medication. The veterinarian actually in most cases orders products directly from distributors and once received, products are stored in a fashion as dictated by the pharmaceutical and/or distributor.
In the case of discount retailers, the products still go to a distributor, but after that, the pharmaceutical no longer has any knowledge of what happens to the product, how it is shipped, how it is stored, and for how long. With many medications, especially liquid flea and tick preventive topical medications having sensitive environmental and handling parameters, pharmaceuticals do not wish to carry the liability nor have their reputations damaged, should one of these medications fail to work or even cause adverse reaction if compromised by poor handling and/or storage. As such, the majority of pharmaceuticals that still choose to not condone selling of their products outside of veterinary clinics, do not guarantee the safety or effectiveness of their products when purchase anywhere outside of a veterinary clinics.
I am sure at this point, you are wondering if most pharmaceuticals do not condone the sale of their products by discount retailers, how in the world are getting them? The answer is that they get the products through “black market” sources. Now let me be clear that black market is an industry term not to be confused with the illegal connotation the term generally carries. In our context, black market simply means, “unauthorized attainment,” but as I previously alluded to, the courts have determined that this actually is not illegal. The most common black market source of pet medications is an unethical veterinarian purchasing mass quantities of product on behalf of a large discount retailer for a generous fee. I have, for example, been recruited to be such an unethical go between for large pet med retailers on several occasions, which I have repeatedly declined. Obviously some veterinarians cannot resist the temptation to make that easy cash. The other common black market source for pet medications is overseas products. Overseas distributors in certain countries have lax regulation that allows this.
So what does this all mean for you and your pet? Well, let us break down the purchase of pet medications through discount retailers into pros and cons:
- The medications are generally cheaper than purchasing the same brand from your veterinarian. Veterinarians simply cannot compete with the quantities that large retailers purchase, and the discounts that said large quantities afford them.
- Convenience – products are often shipped right to the home.
- Quality control – the handling and storage of pet medications may be outside of the guidelines set by the pharmaceutical for a given product, thereby compromising its effectiveness and safety. Pharmaceuticals have no control over quality control when sold outside of veterinary clinics.
- No Guarantee – with the exception of products made by Bayer, pharmaceuticals do not guarantee the safety and effectiveness of their products when purchased outside of a veterinary clinic. Therefore, if a given medication purchased anywhere but a veterinary clinic is ineffective or causes a dangerous reaction to your pet, pharmaceuticals do not want to hear it – all you would get from them is a big, “I told you so.”
So the bottom line for you as a pet owner to decide is this: if the money you save on discount online pet medications or purchasing from other sources outside of veterinary clinics is worth the role of the dice of whether or not that medication will be effective and/or safe for your pet is worth it to you, then by all means proceed. If, on the other hand, having an unknown safety and effectiveness for given pet medications is not the way you choose to save a buck, then get your pet medications the old fashion way: from your veterinarian.
On to our green energy segment, today’s showcased green energy technology is geothermal energy. This technology cools and heats homes utilizing the fact that 6 feet below ground, temperature stays nearly constant, despite temperature extremes that may occur on the surface, and regardless of the season. In northern latitudes, this temperature is approximately 65 degrees, and southern and subtropical latitudes about 72 degrees. During the hot summer, these temperature are effective for cooling the home, while in winter, they are effective for heating the home.
The way it works is a network of pipes are placed deep underground through which water is pumped and assimilates the temperature of the ground. As the water is transported back to the home, a geothermal unit transmits the temperature of the water to air that is vented into to the home. In the summer, this will provide air for the home that is significantly cooler than the ambient temperature, while in winter, this will provide air that is significantly warmer than the ambient temperature. The cost, energy consumption, and environmental impact required to power the electric motors necessary to pump the water and air through the geothermal unit is nominal when compared to the cost, energy consumption, and environmental impact necessary to heat and cool with electricity, oil, or natural gas.
The biggest drawback of this technology is the installation cost, which right now runs around $10,000, making it so that it would take about 5 years of energy savings to recoup the cost of installation. One way we can lessen the cost of installation is to make a concerted effort to lobby our elected officials to offer tax break incentives to have this type of green energy to power our homes. For now, communities that have a collective desire to go geothermal, have had success in significantly cutting the cost of installation by forming co-ops, where geothermal installation companies offer large discounts for numbers of households in a given community opting in for their product; the greater the numbers participating, the greater the discounts.
That is our show for this evening. I thank you as always for watching. Please join me next week, when I will be discussing Pamela Anderson, and why she is one of my favorite people. The reason is probably not what you think.
Don't forget to catch my live call-in radio show Wednesdays 9PM EST. Listen via podcast live or archived here:
Blog Talk Radio
As described on my radio show, here is the footage of the Mary Bale of Conventry, England, callously throwing an innocent cat into a trash bin for no apparent reason. It would be hard to believe if it were not caught on video!
Pet Food Recall
Procter & Gamble (P&G), the makers Iams is recalling a limited number of bags of Iams Proactive Health Indoor Weight & Hairball Care dry cat food as they have the potential to contain Salmonella. The bags in question may have been sold in one or two stores in Loveland, Colorado. The food was sold in blue 6.8 pound bags. These bags feature a code date of 02304173 (B1-B6) and the UPC number 1901403921.
Dr. Roger Welton is the President and chief veterinarian at Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne Florida, as well as CEO of the veterinary advice and health management website Web-DVM.net.