48-year-old California resident Paul S. Rodriguez Jr , the CEO of California-based company Action Packing and Design, pleaded guilty to intentionally trafficking in counterfeit labels and packaging for anti-parasite products and veterinary medicines between July 2015 and December 2016.
His operation produced counterfeit artwork for flea/tick control products Frontline and Frontline Plus sold by Merial, an animal health company located in Duluth, Georgia, as well as other Merial veterinary products. The Department of Justice also notes that Rodriguez trafficked in counterfeit trademarked Rimadyl labels, a veterinary pain/anti-inflammatory medication marketed by Zoetis, a veterinary pharmacy based in Florham Park, New Jersey.
While it is definitely a positive development that this individual is being prosecuted and this company is likely to face heavy fines or even closure in light of this scandal, this is unfortunately likely just the tip of the iceberg of fraud in the multi-billion dollar a year pet medication industry. In addition to counterfeit product, a significant amount of pet medications sold online also come from overseas where quality control and handling of pet medications (temperature, packaging standards, etc.) do not match that of the United States Department of Agriculture or the US Food and Drug Administration. Such lack of quality and handling standards could render products either ineffective, harmful, or both.
For these reasons, most veterinary pharmaceutical companies as a general policy sell only to veterinarians and not pet medication retailers, who instead have to purchase their products through what is known as “sideways sale.” This is when veterinarians of questionable ethics purchase large quantities of pet medications them sell them via back channels to retailers. When the domestic supply runs dry, retailers will resort to purchasing from veterinarians overseas or get duped into purchasing counterfeit product.
I have learned through veterinary pharmaceutical reps that the guilty parties are usually large animals veterinarians looking to make extra money on the sideways sale of small animal pet medications. With what is called track and trace technology, the majority of veterinary pharmaceuticals that do not sell direct to retailers actively trace online product back to the offending veterinarian and cancel their accounts for the reasons outlined above.
Does this mean people should avoid purchasing pet medications online? No, but you should do so with caution, especially with preventives like heartworm prevention that could lead to serious life threatening illness if the dog is receiving bogus product. I would recommend even greater caution in purchasing products that your pet’s life may depend on, such as veterinary heart disease medications.
One strategy upon receipt of the pet medication products purchased online would be to check the product’s lot number and call the company to make certain the product came from them and also confirm that it did not come from overseas. The easiest strategy, however, is to order from your veterinarian’s own online pharmacy if he/she has one.
Many veterinary clinics now have pet medication online store fronts where pet medications can be purchased with the same convenience and free shipping of any other veterinary online retailer with product that ships directly from a US based distributor. Without the need to cover the costs of shipping and stocking products in the clinic’s brick and mortar pharmacy, the veterinarian can offer products sold online at prices comparable to the most affordable online pet medication retailers, complete with the full guarantee of product integrity from the manufacturers.
My clinic, Maybeck Animal Hospital in West Melbourne, FL, has an online pharmacy for our client’s convenience. To see what it looks like, feel free to visit my clinic’s site at the address below, scroll to the bottom of the page, and click on the “Maybeck Animal Hospital Online Pharmacy” icon:
My clients love it because using our pharmacy is also more efficient. Rather than get a paper fax with prescription requests that then need to be signed by the doctor and faxed back to the pharmacy, RX requests from our clinic’s pharmacy instead come in electronically. All a veterinary technician needs to do is get a quick verbal approval from the doctor and click a tab to approve and initiate shipping.
Dr. Roger Welton is a practicing veterinarian and well regarded media personality throughout a number of subjects and platforms. In addition to being passionate about integrative veterinary medicine for which he is a nationally renowned expert, Dr. Welton was also an accomplished college lacrosse player and remains to this day very involved in the sport. He is president of Maybeck Animal Hospital , runs the successful veterinary/animal health blogs Web-DVM and Dr. Roger’s Holistic Veterinary Care, and fulfills his passion for lacrosse through his lacrosse and sport blog, The Creator’s Game.