Several events over the last few weeks have highlighted for me the dangers of ordering medications (of any kind) on line, regardless if they are for our pets or for ourselves.
First and most obvious was the conviction of Sean Gerson, owner of Vaccination Services out of California. This company imports and sells veterinary medications without prescription. They plead guilty to misbranding and selling unregistered pesticides and medications. In other words, they were buying medication A, calling it medication B and putting it in a box labelled medication B and selling that to the unsuspecting public. They were also selling drugs without a prescription to anyone who asked for it. Investigators from the Veterinary Information Network went to the company's web site and after just a few clicks and a wait of 1 week managed to acquire injectable Acepromazine (a powerful sedative) and Amikacin (a 3rd line antibiotic reserved for the most severe infections in order to prevent drug resistance). I don’t think anyone would argue that neither of these medications should be in the hands of the public. But what concerns me for my patients is that their owners are buying products under the mistaken notion that they are getting the equivalent of the what they can get from their Veterinarian or at their local pharmacy. That just isn’t true.
Convicted of switching medications and calling it something else. That terrifies me as a Veterinarian and it should give nightmares to those who buy these medications on line. The National Board of Pharmacies in the United States estimates that over 96% of online pharmacies operate in conflict with the law and standards of practice set up to protect the public and our pets.
Why are these businesses (and make no mistake, the only reason they exist is to make as much profit as possible) allowed to continue? When I look further into this it appears to boil down to numbers and money. There are only so many investigators and so much time. Therefore priority is given to human medications. The pet medication and supplement (a topic for another day) market is a multi billion dollar industry. The risk of getting caught is low, and the profits are high. It’s like playing the game “ whack-a-mole”. For every one company that gets caught 2 more pop up.
A less obvious cause for concern with regards to online purchased medications is how these products are handled. After the three recent hurricanes, warehouses where many of these products were stored were damaged. The products held inside were also damaged. Yet these online sellers will be able to grab these “damaged” goods at a reduced rate and sell them as new to my unsuspecting clients. At best the tainted products will do no harm, at worse they could cause either illness or treatment failure.
Everyone works hard and wants the best value for their money. I am placing the emphasis on value not just price. By purchasing your medications and supplements from your veterinarian or from pharmacies or specialty stores that they recommend, you will be assured of getting the best product, with the best advice, under direct supervision of your Veterinarian.
Our pets are part of our family. You want to be sure you are giving your pet the best care you can provide.
Abbotsford Animal Hospital - Caring for Pets for People in York Region, Aurora, Newmarket, King City, Richmond Hill and the GTA.
Jory Bocknek D.V.M
Dr. Bocknek joined Abbotsford in 1994 and became a partner in 1996. Special interests include ophthalmology, ultrasound, behaviour, and physical rehabilitation.