Caring for pets is easier when a pharmacist is involved.
Pharmacists, take note: although veterinary pharmacy may not be covered in-depth in pharmacy school, there are a host of benefits associated with stocking and filling pet medications.
Randy S. Carr, RPh, FACP, owner of Carr Drugs Compounding & Wellness in Gretna, Louisiana, has approximately 40% of his business geared towards veterinary pharmacy, working primarily with pets. “I’d recommend it because it makes you feel good,” he said. When filling pet prescriptions, Carr explained, “pet owners are very committed to their animals. We like to be able to help the pets. When an owner comes in and tells us the animal is doing better and they are smiling, it makes the whole staff feel good.”
There are only so many drugs available for animals, and it makes caring for animals easier when a pharmacist is involved. For example, a drug might not come in the strength the veterinarian wants, and they don’t have the capability to cut or compound it to the correct size.
“[A medication] could come in a solid tablet or capsule and the owner has trouble dosing the animal, so we can put it in a liquid, or sometimes a transdermal cream,” Carr said. “We’re here to make it convenient for the vet and the owners.”
Carr will occasionally work with local zoos and aquariums because veterinarians are limited pharmaceutically to what’s available to them, especially for larger animals. “[I recently] had to make some antibiotic capsules for a sea turtle,” he said. “We only had a little bit in stock and we only had it because we [recently filled some] prescriptions. In most cases, we can get whatever it is within 1 to 2 days.”
“A good portion of what I do is research and learning what’s the best way to treat this animal and what drugs we could use, and for me that’s fun,” Carr said.
Betsy Faulkner Ficklin, RPh, owner of Woodinville Medical Center Pharmacy in Woodinville, Washington, first became involved in veterinary medicine and compounding in 1992, and has seen more and more of a need in her community through the years.
“It’s a much-needed area in our community and the veterinarians have always been really receptive—especially for exotic animals that are smaller, where you cannot get a concentration needed for small guinea pigs in a dose and flavor that you can get down these animals,” Ficklin said. “We had a lot of veterinarians here very interested in [having us help] them with companion animals, plus we have a lot of horses in this area. We even helped a rescue with an eagle that needed medication to get its cervix softened up to lay an egg”
It’s something the pharmacy has taken pride in over the years, and Ficklin noted it makes a more specialized pharmacy—and it’s a lot more enjoyable than working with the red tape on human prescriptions and insurance.
“We have more creative incoming solutions for individual prescriptions,” she said. “If an animal can’t take something orally, we can go through their ear to get them the dose they need. There are also some good transdermal options that wouldn’t be available in a commercial product. So, coming up with solutions for individual owners and pets and working with veterinarians on that is a challenge and reward at the same time.”
Rosemary Mihalko, PharmD, of Hieber's Pharmacy in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, noted that there is also a financial component, especially if you’re in an area where no one else is doing veterinary pharmacy. “Making veterinary medications more accessible is extremely helpful to the owners by allowing them to have their own medications and pets’ medications available for pick up, mail, or delivery,” she said. “It’s not only convenient but saves on fees for those services and trips to the vet’s office.”
Carr, who has been filling pet prescriptions for more than 4 decades, agreed: Pharmacists shouldn’t sleep on the profit possibilities as it proves to be more lucrative than human medications in most instances.