When Vets Send Patients to Independent Pharmacies, Everyone Can Benefit


When pet parents fill a prescription online, they lose the opportunity to consult with a pharmacist.

As animal lovers, veterinarians want what’s best for people’s pets. So when there’s a health problem requiring medications to treat, many vets are quick to point to independent veterinary pharmacists as the place to fill the prescriptions.

Mail-order outlets like Amazon or 1800-PetMeds might be cheaper, but the personal care and follow-up that a veterinary pharmacist can offer is second to none. And, pet owners often feel more secure having a pharmacy professional available to discuss their pet’s medications with and get any questions answered—something that doesn’t happen when a pet parent visits a website and places an internet order.

Gary Koesten, BPharm, president of Vet Pharm Consulting in Boynton Beach, Florida, noted that 80% of medicine that is veterinary-only will be carried by veterinarians in their practices and they derive an income from the sales. For instance, every veterinarian practice has heart-worm medication to dispense to a client when they bring their dog in for a routine physical. When pet parents are given physical prescriptions to take elsewhere, vets can lose an income stream.

“More and more, people are asking for the prescriptions to fill themselves to go to Amazon or 1-800-PetMeds because they know they are going to save some money,” Koesten said. However, going to an independent pharmacist is an even better idea, he explained, because the pharmacist’s role is in checks and balances against what the physician is prescribing.

“Pharmacists are going to catch drug interactions. Pharmacists are going to catch dosages that may not be correct for the age or disease state of the pet,” Koesten said. “By having a pharmacist being able to fill prescriptions from the veterinarian, the checks and balances are being done.”

Therefore, Koesten explained, there’s more benefit to the patient to bring their veterinary prescription to a local pharmacy.

Kate Boatright, VDM, a small animal veterinarian, feels that independent pharmacists are helpful for numerous reasons. For instance, there are medications that vets don’t use regularly—those that they only prescribe for certain diseases, for example—which can create a lot of overhead to stock.

“If you have a patient that comes in and needs the medication, sending them to a local pharmacy will enable them to get it much quicker,” she said. “Another place I see a lot of practices sending scripts out is for controlled substances. It’s better than carrying them in-house.”

However, Boatright feels that many patients like to get the medicine from the vet and not have to make an extra trip, and many vets try to do education in-house on the medications as well. Therefore, it’s not always 100% certain that a veterinarian will send someone to an independent pharmacist for veterinary medicine.

Lauren Forsythe, PharmD, is a veterinary pharmacist and assistant professor of social and administrative pharmacy at the University of Findlay, whose parents were both veterinarians—giving Forsythe a unique view into both perspectives.

“I think veterinarians might send a client to a pharmacist because they may be able to get better pricing,” she said. “A vet practice might go through a bottle of a medication in 6 months, where a pharmacy might go through 3 bottles a day, so you can price it more competitively. And some veterinarians want to do what’s best for their patients.”

A lot of younger ves, she noted, don’t want the headache of worrying about the medications themselves, so they are happy to just write a prescription and send clients off to a local pharmacy, even if it’s a loss of profit for them.

“Another benefit for vets is they can prescribe medication that isn’t practical to stock,” Forsythe said. “Things that they prescribe so rarely, that they don’t want it to expire on their shelves. It allows them to utilize pharmacies so they don’t have to have an inventory that might expire."

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