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Vigilance advised when shopping online



DOG OWNERS need to be vigilant when buying on-line veterinary drugs, a vet has warned this week, though caution rather than avoidance is the advice given to the thousands of people who save hundreds of pounds a year by buying prescription and other drugs on-line.

Dan Andrews, a partner in the Seers Croft veterinary practice in Horsham, is warning dog owners to be careful after one of his clients took a veterinary prescription to purchase Rimadyl from an online website. Having looked at a number of web sites Mr Andrews’s client selected a web based business called Petcare Mart. (www.petcaremart.co.uk/) which appeared to be a legitimate veterinary drugs supplier and was cheaper than any of the others the client looked at. This transaction, later to be described by his client as “an internet shopping experience that went horribly wrong”, is an example of just how careful pet owners should be when purchasing any veterinary supplies online.

Having purchased the Rimadyl from Petcare Mart, Mr Andrews’s client was alarmed when the drugs took a long time to arrive, and began to worry whether she had been conned. On contacting Petcare Mart she was assured that the Rimadyl would arrive shortly, although they refused to say how they had sent it, either by post or by courier.

Customs

When the Rimadyl did finally arrive it was postmarked Barbados and had on it a customs declaration certificate saying that the package contained nothing of value, and certainly did not say that the package held veterinary drugs. On opening the package, Mr Andrews’s client discovered that the enclosed Rimadyl was in a South African container. As she was by now very concerned that the drug supplied was perhaps not as ordered and may not be Rimadyl at all, she took the “Rimadyl” to Mr Andrews’s clinic to get the drugs checked out and see what he thought.
Mr Andrews sent the drugs to the Veterinary Medicines Directorate for testing to prove whether or not the medicine supplied was in fact Rimadyl, which it did turn out to be, but the Rimadyl could not be returned to Mr Andrews or his client, as the import of veterinary medicines is illegal.
On the Petmart website one of the questions is Q: Do you ship from a registered pharmacy? A: Yes, we only ship from our registered pharmacy and all orders are dispensed by a pharmacist. This would certainly suggest that drugs are sent from their own pharmacy, and certainly not from somewhere as far away at Barbados.

No censure

Although the Rimadyl was supplied by Petcare Mart they are not legally responsible for sending the drugs, and so escape any form of censure. However as the Veterinary Medicines Directorate explained, the person who has bought them is legally responsible and importing medicines does leave the person importing the drugs open to prosecution. In this instance - as it was a first offence and not likely to be repeated - they told Mr Andrews’s client that they would be sending her an official warning to not import any drugs in the future.

The VMD, a part of DeFRA, are aware of the Petcare Mart site but unfortunately cannot get it shut down. It is very confusing for people seeking to buy medicines as the web site address is a .co.uk address. Customs and Excise told Our Dogs that it is difficult to track these companies but every report they get is logged and packages from them are watched out for.

Mr Andrews’s client considered herself to be a pretty savvy and safe internet shopper but got caught out this time, as Mr Andrews advises us, it can happen to anyone and ‘If it seems too good to be true, then it usually is!’

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