There has been a long established online pet medication retail market for over a decade, but in the last few years, Wal-Mart, Target, Costco, Sam’s Club, and even grocery store chains have gotten in on the multibillion dollar a year industry. The latter have introduced programs like $4 prescriptions, and other tactics that their large purchasing power and mass storage capacity enables them to engage in to attract new pet consumers, while also doing direct to consumer marketing online, in print, and on television.
Cost is a major driving factor for pet owners that choose to demand prescriptions for their pet medications so that they may purchase from large retailers, and the truth is that veterinary practices, the majority of which are small businesses, simply cannot compete with these large retail outlets. But…in many cases, we can get the price of prescription pet medications reasonably close to the discount offered by large retail, and if your veterinarian can succeed in pricing his prescription drugs reasonably close, then here are 4 reasons why you are better served to choose to buy the prescription from your veterinarian.
1.) Large retail pharmacists are trained in human pharmacology and generally are not familiar with veterinary pharmacology and how it applies to pets. They do not have the same understanding of animal physiology that your veterinarian does, and many medications that may not cause side effects in people, may do so in pets; or vice versa. As a result, I have seen time and again, pet owners getting warnings about medication that are not relevant to pets, thereby scaring them unnecessarily; while having seen the flip side where warnings should have been given, but were not.
2.) Many veterinary specific drugs, including most HW, flea and tick preventive products, are sold by pharmaceuticals only to veterinarians exclusively. This exclusivity ensures that veterinarians who best understand these medications receive the products directly from the distributor and are directly overseeing their handling and storage. When these medications are dispensed to the customer, the labels are written and printed by the veterinarian, complete with instructions for use and warnings. All of this ensures the integrity and proper use of the products to maximize safety and efficacy. When large retail stores get these products, since they are sold veterinarian exclusive, it means that they got them through sideways sale from an unethical veterinarian, what is termed a “black market source.” Some products even come from overseas. This middleman involvement creates a big variable with regard to quality control, as mishandling, improper storage, and improper shipping can lead to problems with safety and efficacy of a product. Getting product from overseas creates the same, but even more magnified quality control issues with the consumer not benefitting from the oversight of the FDA, USDA, and EPA.
3.) Product’s safety and efficacy may not be guaranteed. With veterinary pharmaceuticals being legally powerless to stop the black market sales outline in point 2, many have responded by refusing to guarantee the safety and efficacy of a veterinary specific prescription medication purchased from a retailer other than a licensed veterinarian. Therefore, if you ever find that a product may not work or has made your pet sick, if the product was not purchased from a veterinarian, some pharmaceuticals will not provide product support, and disavow all responsibility for product failure.
4.) Help your local economy. Money spent in large retail stores by in large goes to China, whereas money spent in a veterinary clinic stays in the local economy. Veterinary hospitals are small businesses. As they grow, they add local jobs, increase patronage of other local businesses, pay more local taxes, etc. When you spend money in a small business, that money feeds to prosperity of your local community, not some country half a world away.