NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


September 3, 2004

Consumers are not only opting to purchase their prescriptions from Canadian online pharmacies to cut costs, they are also turning to Canada to save on pet medications.

  • Prices are lower because the Canadian government regulates them; one shopper, for example, found a Canadian outlet offering heartworm preventative and flea medication for 40 percent less.
  • However, 75 percent of U.S. pet prescriptions are filled by veternarians, and without that source of income, prices for other medical services might rise.

Food and Drug Administration officials warn about the safety of these drugs just as they caution consumers about purchasing human medications online. Consumers are urged to make sure the online venders are licensed, with their address and phone number listed on their Web sites. Furthermore, experts say that even if Canadian pharmacies make an inroad into the pet med market, it could never rival the human pharmaceutical business in size or profits. Consider the numbers:

  • Pet owners make 127 million visits to their veterinarians annually, but fewer than 10 percent of those require prescription, according to the American Veterinary Association.
  • A major pet drug might generate $300 million in annual sales; in contrast, Pfizer took in $9.3 billion last year on sales of its best selling cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor.
  • Veterinary sales by member companies of the Animal Health Institute were $1.7 billion in 2002 -- puny compared with the $139 billion recorded for human drugs.

Although Canadian pet med purchases do not seriously threaten large pharmaceutical companies, consumers are urged to limit their search for cheaper pet meds to U.S. online pharmacies.

Source: Robert Dodge, "In Canada, Fido, Fluffy save on RX," Dallas Morning News, August 28, 2004.



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