Pet Medications Through Retail Pharmacies – What You Need to Know
Many retail pharmacies are now offering prescription pet medications. National chain pharmacies such as Costco, Target, Walmart and Walgreens can provide pet prescription and non-prescription medications at reduced costs, thereby saving the consumer money. Like all pharmacists, they will not prescribe the medications themselves; they only work from prescriptions written by a licensed veterinarian.
From the consumer’s point of view this can be beneficial both from a cost savings perspective and a convenience factor. However take some precautions if you do switch from a pet pharmacy to a retail pharmacy. According to each state’s Pharmacy Practice Act, pharmacists are not allowed to change a prescription without consulting the prescriber first (in this case the veterinarian). But according to an article from the VIN News Service, there have been rare, anecdotal accounts of retail pharmacists changing the dosage or substituting another medication without consulting the original veterinarian. So if your retail pharmacist contacts you with a suggested medication change, be sure they have consulted with your veterinarian beforehand.
Not all retail pharmacists are trained in veterinary pharmacology; this does not mean they are not qualified to dispense pet medications. It’s more a matter of consumer comfort level. Stacy Mantle of Pets Weekly says, “I haven’t had too many problems using regular pharmacies to fill pet medications. Most of them do compounding/reformulation (i.e., to add taste like beef or chicken flavors or to reformulate say a pill to a topical paste). For reformulation, I use specific animal pharmacies since they understand animals better. ”
According to Costco’s Senior Vice-President of Pharmacy Vic Curtis, from an article in Drugstorenews.com, Costco offers a ‘continuing education program for pharmacists dispensing pet meds, as well as a veterinary drug handbook shipped to stores and access to veterinarians who can answer pharmacists’ questions.’
Bottom line: If you do decide to use a retail pharmacist, stay on top of possible changes to your pet’s prescriptions. And I recommend getting more information by speaking with your local pharmacist and your veterinarian.