As the popularity of purchasing pet medications from online pet medication retailers continues to increase, it becomes an ever increasingly controversial aspect of the pet health care industry. Veterinarians are disturbed by this trend first and foremost because of the loss of pet medication revenue being funneled instead to large pet medication online corporations. From an ethical standpoint, the sale of many of these medications occurs by unethical means, that is, manufacturers whose policy is to enforce quality control by making their products veterinarian exclusive, have this policy circumvented by online pet med corporations that entice a few o greedy vets into buying mass quantities of these medications on their behalf to be channeled into the online retail market for a fee. According to the May 2008 edition of Veterinary Practice News in an article titled “Product Diversion,” the online retail pet med market diverts $200 million to $300 million per year on flea preventive medication alone, representing a staggering amount of revenue lost for veternary clinics.
When pet owners choose to save a buck by using these outlets, they think that they are getting one over on the system and sticking it to us greedy vets, but they never stop realize that they hurt themselves, other pet owners, and the community as a whole in the long run. From a strictly economical standpoint, when pet owners choose to buy their pet medications from an online pharmacy rather than a local veterinary clinic, they divert their money from their local economy, and instead feed a corporate giant could that not care less about the economic stability of their city. Local veterinary clinics use revenue to provide health care for their employees and provide them with regular bonuses and raises. Health care, bonuses, and regular raises allows veterinary clinic employees the financial freedom to spend, thereby infusing their own money in the local economy.
Revenue is also used by many clinics to give back to the community. In my clinic, we donate net profits on certain products to a memorial fund established to provide health care for pets of the less fortunate that could not otherwise afford it. We also provide significantly discounted health care services for many animal rescue groups in our county. We are but one example of countless veterinary clinics that engage in giving back to the community for the benefit of animals and pet owners.
By choking off a significant share of the pet care industry’s revenue by choosing to patronize corporate giants for your pet health medication needs, veterinary clinics are left with a diminished capacity to provide for their staff and engage in community works. As this trend approaches a critical point where revenue is lost to the point that practice ability to maintain quality employee standards (a situation that is already occuring), practice owners have no choice than to either cut staff, cut benefits, and/or seek alternate ways to make up for that revenue.
One aspect of veterinary medicine that corporate giants cannot touch or capitalize on or exploit is our minds and our skills. With preventive medical sales becoming increassingly a less significant source of revenue for veterinary clinics, practices are gradually establishing a shift where a greater focus is placed on services rather than products. As a result, while the online pet med retail shopper may save $5.00 to $15.00 on preventive medications, they and other pet owners will pay more for examinations, dental prophylaxis, in-hospital treatments, surgeries, and just about any other aspect of veterinary medicine that falls under the category of “services.” The Veterinary Practice News Article quoted from earlier in this post is actually a how-to article for veterinarians to begin a veterinary practice paradigm shift from a reliance on product sales to a greater reliance on revenue procured from services, as the result of the increasing popularity of online pet med retailers.
The ones that indeed get hurt the most from online pet med retailers are the many pet owners that continue to choose purchase their preventive medications from veterinary clinics. They unfortunately share in the burden of increased costs of services at no fault of their own. However, while pet owners who frequent online pet med retailers may save a little here and there, when the time comes that their pets require veterinary services to maintain or sustain their pet’s health, they too will feel this burden, and in the long run, their preventive medications savings will be at best minimal, if not negated or worse.
My message to all that order pet meds from online pet med retailers is to realize that you purchase veterinarian exclusive medications that are obtained by unethical means dictated by greed above all. If this does not detract you from buying meds online, then consider that you contribute to the compromise of your local economy by funnelling your local money out of your community an into the pockets of corporations. Consider also that this loss of veterinary practice revenue comes at the cost of maintaining optimal employment conditions for veterinary practice staff and leaves us less disposable income to engage in community works that help people and animals of the community. Finally, know that in the long run, your patronage of online pet med retailers will ultimately cost you significantly more in pet health care services, likely negating any savings you may have gained under the best of circumstances. However, for the pet owners that loyally purchase their products from veterinary clinics, through no fault of their own, have to help shoulder the burden of increased cost of services that your actions contributed to.