The truth about why the FDA is warning consumers about 1-800 and internet Pharmacies, why this is something you need to know, and what we are doing about it
Back in the day, Veterinarians tended to "loss-leader" their professional fees and make it up on pharmacy sales, "oh times they are a changing" says Richard Rindels, General Manager of Small Paws Veterinary Clinic, recently opened at 1505 N. Road Street in Elizabeth City. Now Veterinarians are competing with 1-800 and on-line retailers of veterinary drugs and products. Unfortunately, these big name companies that are advertising ridiculously low pricing are not authorized by the pharmaceutical company's to sell their products, and worst yet they are selling gray market drugs and other pet products. No matter what they say in the TV ads, the manufacturer will not stand behind these products and many can do great harm to the pets that receive them. Storage and handling is the key when it comes to anything with a shelf life. Most consumers just don’t understand what happens to pharmaceuticals when they are exposed to heat on a shipping container not once but many times twice as these products that are made for overseas markets are shipped there and then back again here after being purchased by a distributor on the gray market overseas. Nothing is worse than getting a false sense of security thinking that your pet is protected from a potentially deadly parasite or disease and then finding out the hard way that it is not, due to the way the drug has been handled. These companies promise 100% guarantee but all that means is that they will either refund your money or replace your product with something comparable.
So how are Veterinarians competing with this as it usually takes several visits to the vet’s office to get the client up to speed on this situation?
Small Paws has decided to fight fire with fire. We have teamed up with manufacturers and our pharmacy distributors and opened our own on-line store. All of our clients get access to a personal on-line pet portal. On this portal clients can access their pet’s vaccination history, load photos, get appointments, purchase pet care products on-line and make Rx requests. Our clients have access to the same pharmacy distributor that we use for our in-clinic Rx needs. Our distributors search all on-line pricing and allow us to set whatever margins we want. We set it to match on-line lowest price over a four to five day average plus only $2.20 to help offset the cost of credit card merchant fees.
We understand that especially during this economic downturn that our clients are looking for ways to save money. This way we can satisfy the needs for savings while at the same time assure that our clients are giving their pets the same exact drugs and products that we have on hand in our clinic and that everything has been stored and handled properly so that the veterinarian, the manufacturer, and the distributor will all stand firmly behind everything. It’s a win-win for us and our clients, this eventually will take off to the point to where we will not have to carry as much inventory within our clinic. We save our clients a tremendous amount of money with this program and they in-turn will save us by allowing us to reduce our inventory thus bringing down the overhead quite a bit.
We really don’t mind losing out on a good amount of the revenue stream that in-house pharmacy represents. By the time you make the purchases, carry the cost of overhead on the inventory with all the handling, paperwork and labor by the time you sell the product you are lucky if you don’t lose money on the deal. Besides, our whole thing is about the health and wellness of our clients pets. We need to be able to trust the medicine that your pet is given so it matters where it comes from. This is why in the old days (and now too) that drugs were placed with the veterinarian (or veterinary pharmacist) to dispense.
Regardless of how most of the veterinarians do the pricing these days it all seems to come out in the wash anyway. I bet you won’t find $5 or maybe a $10 average difference in the pricing here locally between the veterinarians on similar standard visit procedures, fees for services or products in-hospital. As a matter of fact, all of the research that we did before we opened in September of 2011 shows that the local prices are on the average 30% lower in Elizabeth city area than the national average, and 20% lower than the Norfolk area Veterinarians. When it comes to cost of running a veterinary hospital or clinic the cost is up there but certainly nowhere near the pricing in human medicine, yet veterinarians are expected to do way more for far less, all for patient that can’t tell you where it hurts, but hey, I’ll save that for another story.
Richard Rindels, General Manager
Small Paws Veterinary Clinic, PLLC