The British Veterinary Association (BVA) has responded to a survey carried out on behalf of the online pharmacy Vet-Medic which found that internet pharmacies charge on average half the price for medicines when compared to veterinary practices.

Commenting, BVA President-Elect Harvey Locke said:

"Vet-Medic claim that veterinary practices are over-inflating the price of veterinary medicines is an unfair accusation.

"Veterinary practices will mark up the cost of the medicines they supply in order to cover the costs of keeping and dispensing them. This includes having trained staff available, buying the necessary equipment, and storage facilities that are governed by strict rules, and covering the cost of wasted medicines that have a short shelf life.

"Online pharmacies have similar overheads but are able to buy in much larger quantities than the average veterinary practice due to the much higher volumes sold. Many of the internet prices revealed in the survey are around the same cost as veterinary practices can buy the medicines from wholesalers suggesting that some of the internet companies are sourcing cheaper drugs abroad.

"The BVA would therefore urge caution when buying from internet pharmacies and recommend that pet owners spend time finding out where the medicines are sourced from. While we certainly wouldn't want to imply that all medicines on the internet are counterfeit, there are cases of fake medicines that look genuine being sold. These medicines are placebos at best and dangerous at worst.

"As with many products buying online can be cheaper and consumers have a choice. Many pet owners choose to use the veterinary practice pharmacy because a lot of advice and assistance is available, including demonstrations on how to administer the treatments.

"Vet-Medic's assertion that pet owners don't know that they can obtain a prescription from their veterinary surgeon is also false. Over 50% of UK practices are registered under the RCVS Practice Standards Scheme. One of the conditions of the scheme is that a notice must be displayed in the waiting room informing clients that prescriptions are available on request, the price of a prescription, and the price list of the top ten medicines that the practice has dispensed in the last three month period.

"It's important to remember that under the law veterinary practices are not allowed to fix the price of medicines. As they are independent businesses this means that it is up to each practice to charge according to their own circumstances to cover their individual overheads."

British Veterinary Association

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