Animal Pharmacy Red Flags

Some online purchase fails are funny: a pair of pants that turns out to be doll-sized, a fancy dress that was hand-sewn by someone with little to no sewing skills. But others can have catastrophic results: a flea and tick preventive that isn’t made from the proper ingredients, or that is the wrong dosage.

That’s why it’s important to use only reputable, secure sources when ordering medications of any kind. While there are many safe sites to order medication, such as our online pharmacy, unfortunately, there are also plenty of counterfeit medications online.

Counterfeit medications for pets (and people) are a big business. Overseas manufacturers create their own version of a popular medication and box it in packaging almost identical to the real, or they put a real label on a cheap, fake product. Then they sell it in bulk at a very low cost to U.S. outlets, including online stores.

What’s the risk with using counterfeit products?
There are a few major risks involved with using counterfeit medications. The medication could be the wrong compound – the flea and tick preventive you’re feeding your dog could actually be a totally different medication. Or, it could be a comparable medication, but made with ingredients different than the promised product, posing an allergy risk.

Additionally, the medication could be the wrong dose. For instance, if you’re giving your large dog a flea and tick preventive, but the counterfeit product is the dosage meant for a tiny dog, your dog isn’t getting the proper coverage, leaving him susceptible to flea allergies, Lyme disease, heartworms, and more.

Is it illegal to buy counterfeit drugs?
As a consumer, you face no penalty for purchasing counterfeit products. However, you are buying from an illegal source.

In 2009, John Buerman, who ran an online business called CatsMart Plus, was charged with trafficking counterfeit goods and knowingly using a counterfeit mark, as well as with distributing and selling a misbranded pesticide.

Buerman was investigated after a woman purchased a product from his store and gave it to her cat, only to have her cat fall ill. Buerman received two years in federal prison, plus 3 years’ probation.

Similarly, in 2017, California businessmen Michael Chihwen Weng and Paul S. Rodriguez Jr. pled guilty to trafficking in counterfeit labels and packaging. The men intentionally trafficked counterfeit labels and packaging by manufacturing, then shipping to Houston, counterfeit and trademarked Frontline, Frontline Plus, and Merial veterinary products. He also trafficked counterfeit Rimadyl labels, a veterinary product from health company Zoetis. The men faced up to 10 years in prison, plus up to $2 million in fines.

Do fake products have distinguishing marks?
Different false products have different characteristics that distinguish them from real products. There are a few common signs of a dupe, including:

  • Discrepancies between what the product should weight compared to its actual weight
  • Lack of English instructions
  • Products not packaged in child-resistant packaging
  • Stickers on box to hide foreign labeling
  • EPA registration number missing
  • Product size is not appropriate for the animal weight listed on front of package (e.g., a large pill for a small dog)

However, many illicit products look very similar to the real thing, making it very hard to recognize it on sight. This is why you should strictly use products purchased from a reputable source, such as our in-house or online pharmacy. When products are purchased through us, they are guaranteed by the manufacturer.

What should you do if you’ve used a counterfeit product?
If you have used a product that did not come from a trustworthy source, tell us the next time you bring your pet in for a visit. It’s possible your pet is perfectly healthy, but we want to make sure there are no underlying issues. You also can bring the products in so we can properly dispose of the product, or contact your local government to learn the protocol for disposing of medications.

If your pet has a reaction to a medication purchased from an unknown source, bring them to us or the nearest emergency veterinary hospital immediately. Bring the product, if possible, so we can determine exactly what your pet has ingested.