Do you know fake medicines are a thing?

Yep, that’s right. Counterfeit pet medicines are big business. According to Health for Animals, in the US alone fake pharmacies coin a cool $1-2 billion per year.

And you can see how this works as a business model. For example, if a dog requires expensive heart meds this is a big financial drain on the owner. Eager to provide their pet with much needed treatment, it’s a temptation to buy at a discount price online. Some unscrupulous people take advantage of this to peddle fake medicines at an attractive price in order to cash in concerned but cash-strapped owners.

Of course there are plenty of genuine pharmacies online. This isn’t about tarring all retailers of pet medicines with the same brush. No. This article aims to help you shop safely for veterinary pharmaceuticals so your pet doesn’t suffer unnecessarily.

The Seresto Scam

The UK veterinary press currently carries warnings to alert owners to fake Seresto collars. The ‘real deal’ is a great flea and tick collar which provides eight-month’s protection against these unpleasant parasites. Quite simply, the fake collars don’t. And this matters because tick-borne diseases are disabling and in some cases shorten life expectancy.

Tick-borne diseases posing a risk to pets include:

  • Babesiosis
  • Lyme disease
  • Ehrilichiosis
  • Rocky Mountain spotted fever
  • Bartonellosis
  • Anaplasmosis
  • Hepatozoonosis

None of which are conditions your pet wants to pickup on a dark night. So imagine the distress of thinking your pet pal is protected, only to find the collar was a fake and your dog has Lyme disease as a result.

The makers of the Seresto collar, Bayer, are concerned not just because it impacts sales of the genuine article, but because of the risk of pets being put in harms way. If you have recently purchased a Seresto collar from a store or online, then here’s how to check if its a fake or fur-real.

The real Seresto collars are:

  • Never have a sticker on the tin but the latter is engraved/printed
  • The collar comes in a childproof container
  • No date is printed on tin
  • The collar is laser etched rather than printed
  • The collars are only sold through vets or with a valid prescription

Spotting Fake Medicines

OK, so you’re clued up about Seresto and can dodge this scam, but what about other fake medicines? Here are some suggestions for sussing out the scammers.

Prescription Required

Prescription medications are just that, and require a prescription to buy them. If you aren’t sure if the medication in question requires a script, ask your vet. If the answer is “Yes,” and yet the online retailer will sell the medication without one then this is FAKE medicine.

If a retailer will sell a prescription med without a script this is indeed too good to be true and almost certainly a counterfeit medicine.

Registered Retailers

Anyone can create an authentic looking website to retail dodgy drugs. Don’t judge by appearances alone. Instead, only buy pet medications through registered pharmacies or registered online retailers.

To start with, the Seresto scam has prompted Bayer to create this handy tool. You can use PetBasics to find an authentic supplier (of their medications) closest to you.

For pharmeceuticals from manufacturers other than Bayer, in the US a good starting point is the FDA and their BeSafeRx information about buying drugs safely online. For Europe, this page lists links to all online registered pharmacies. Whilst in the UK, you can search for Registered Pharmacies via the website of the General Pharmaceutical Council.

Some websites retailing pet meds are run by vets, and supply meds in their capacity as a veterinarian (rather than a pharmacist) However, only the vet who has the individual patient in their care can prescribe for that animal. So again, theses sites still require a script to be supplied.

Also, doubtless the scent of a healthy profit may encourage people to pretend to be vets online. So don’t just take their word for it. Check the registers of the governing body for veterinarians in your country (for example the RCVS in the UK) to check for bogus claims.

Buy Direct from your Vet Clinic

No, this isn’t about promoting vet services for the sake of it, but about pet safety. Vets are supplied direct from the manufacturer or via specialist wholesalers. These businesses are scrupulous about standards and guarantee only genuine drugs are supplied.

To sleep at night safe in the knowledge your pet’s medication is the best it can be, then purchase pharmaceuticals direct from a vet clinic.

Don’t Put your Pet at Risk

Remember, fake medicines are dangerous:

  • They may contain toxins or poisons
  • There is no guarantee of their strength
  • They may be ineffective, meaning the pet goes un-medicated
  • They may have unforeseen side effects
  • They may have unforeseen interactions with other meds the pet takes

All in all, fake medicines are a false economy , for so many reasons. Don’t put your pet at risk. At the very least, take some time to check out the retailer and if a deal seems to good to be true…then it probably is.