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Generic Pet Drugs…Good or Bad for Your Pets?

According to data from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, consumers in the US spent almost $4 billion on retail prescriptions in 2010 and a large portion of that business was in the form of generic medications.  Generics now make up more than 80% of all prescriptions filled at human pharmacies.  In addition, pet owners are now asking about generic alternatives for their animals.

So, what is a generic drug and are there concerns about using them for our four legged family members?

Drugs that contain the same active ingredient as a brand name medication are known as generics.  These products become available after a pharmaceutical company loses their patent protection on the specific drug molecule.  Since the necessary clinical testing that is so important for new drugs does not need to be repeated for generics, these medications are sold at a much lower cost.  In addition, many consumers are already familiar with the drug and advertising costs can be greatly reduced.

Medicines that are brought to market as generics must contain the same active ingredients, have the same route of administration, same dosage or strength and the same conditions of use.  But, many people still have serious worries about how well these medications perform or their overall safety.  News reports about poor manufacturing standards and contaminated ingredients have raised alarm in the minds of many individuals.

FDA Generic Drug Review processHowever, the FDA has an extensive overview process that not only creates a system for evaluating quality standards for manufacturing, but also significant testing to show that the drug performs just like the original product.  This assessment of the generic’s performance is known as proving bioequivalence.

Still, it is important to remember that all people, and pets, are individuals and there is always the possibility that a unique response can occur to either the original drug or the generic equivalent.  In addition, inert ingredients used in the manufacturing of the generic product may differ from the brand name.  This could also lead to abnormal or adverse reactions to the medication.

Knowing all of this, does it make sense for pet owners to spend extra time at a retail pharmacy picking up pet medications or parasite preventives?

First and foremost, it is important to understand that your veterinarian is crucial to answering that question.  A physical examination of the pet and a veterinarian/client/patient relationship are necessary in order for the veterinarian to write any prescription.  In other words, don’t expect to get a prescription if your pet hasn’t seen their doctor in more than a year.

Next, lab work is often needed to keep your veterinarian up-to-date on your pet’s health status and to monitor any disease process.  For medications like heartworm preventives, it is vital that your dog have a negative heartworm test before continuing the medicine.

Finally, with many brands and alternatives on the market, it’s easy to become confused about the exact product that your pet requires.  Your veterinarian and his or her team can help you find the one that matches the medical needs of your pet as well as one that is safe and effective.

Be wary of online websites that promise absurdly low prices on pet medications.  Far too often, these are simply scams designed to take your money.

Many veterinarians keep a well-stocked pharmacy right in their hospital or allow their clients to order drugs online.  Getting the medications directly from your veterinarian could save you time and hassle.  But, in either case, your veterinarian will want to help you get the right drugs at a price that fits in your budget.  That is their commitment to you as their trusted client.

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Question and Answer on Generic Rimadyl

Our clients regularly ask us great questions regarding their pets.  This was question Dr. Denise answered via email in August of 2011 regarding the use of a generic carprofen (Rimadyl).

Dr. Denise,

Can you get me a prescription for the generic of Rimadyl? Spot currently takes Putney Carprofen Caplets, 75mg twice a day. Our current bottle has 180 caplets in it, non-chewable.

I can go on petmeds.com if you cannot order it but need the prescription from you, correct?

Thanks,

Jane

Hello Jane,

Yes we can certainly write you a prescription to order the Carprofen caplets.   My question is, are you using the caplets because they are less expensive or because Spot would not take the chewable Rimadyl tablets?

The reason I ask is that we competitively price our Rimadyl chewables in line with the generic carprofen tablets so that our clients have the ease of giving the chewable tablets rather than trying to hide the caplet in something every day.

If Spot would eat the chewable, you could use the Rimadyl 100 mg chewables and give 1 tablet in the morning and 1/2 tablet in the evening (which is equivalent to 75mg twice daily)  The Rimadyl chewable tablet is scored so it is easy to split.  The Rimadyl can be given only once a day (Rimadyl was tested with once daily dosing). However with a pet the age of Spot, I usually divide the dose up to get really good 24 hour coverage. If you went to the bigger size and gave 1 1/2 tablets total for the day rather than two of the 75 mg tablets a day you would end up saving money since you would be using less tablets each day. I’ve included cost comparisons below for you to look at – our hospital versus Pet Meds.

Pet Meds  Carprofen caplet  75mg  #180count  $178.44  ($1.00/tablet)    2 tablets a day = $2.00 a day  $60/month

Pet Meds  Rimadyl chewable  75mg  #180count  $215.19 Deerfield Rimadyl chewable  75mg  #180count  $194.00

Pet Meds  Carprofen caplet  100mg  #180count $188.94   ($1.05/tablet)

Pet Meds  Rimadyl chewable  100mg  #180count $236.19

Deerfield Rimadyl chewable  100mg  #180count $199.99 ($1.11/tablet)  1 1/2 tablets a day = $1.67 a day   $50.10/month

So you could go to the Rimadyl chewables, give 1 1/2 tablets a day and spend $10 less a month than the generics you are using twice daily. Now obviously if Spot won’t take the chewables then all bets are off and we will stick with the caplets. One last note, if we do go with the chewables be sure to keep them out of reach- some dogs have been known to “counter surf” to get to the bottle of chewables because they taste so good.  Unfortunately, that becomes a medical emergency.

Dr. Denise

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New Research Alters Debate on Heartworm Preventative Resistance

The latest study on heartworm preventative resistance spotlights the most important factors in preventing this condition in the Ozarks.  Clarke Atkins DVM, DVM, DACVIM, professor of veterinary medicine and cardiology at North Carolina State University just completed his study in the Mississippi River Delta.  This area is a hotbed for heartworm disease and has been the recent focus area for studies on the resistant MP3 heartworm.

His study suggests that dog owner’s failure to purchase and administer preventatives every 30 days plays a larger role in canine heartworm disease than resistance to heartworm preventatives.  He also adds that current research does not point to any particular product being more effective than another.

His study does not disprove the resistant MP3 strain, only that administering medications in a timely manner (every 30 days) is the most important factor in preventing this parasite in the dog.

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Do Generic Flea Products Meet Your Pet’s Needs?

For a long time, flea control consisted of harsh products that were related to nerve gases of World War I. Many of these carbamates and organophosphates worked well at killing fleas, but unfortunately, they weren’t very safe for pets and had the potential for severe toxicity. Then, about fifteen years ago, modern chemistry helped give us safer topical flea treatments. Because fleas, ticks and other parasites are medical problems that need educated medical recommendations, the companies producing the new products chose to sell these flea medications only through veterinarians.

Fast forward to present day and you can find many flea products both over the counter (OTC) and through veterinary or “ethical” channels. Annual sales of flea and tick medications exceed $1 billion and there are many companies eager to get their share of the pie.

Recently, the compound, fipronil became available for generic use. The original patent holder, Merial, produces an excellent flea product (Frontline®) that was our main choice for many years. Now, no less than 15 “generic” fipronil flea products will be offered in the OTC markets.

What does this mean for you and your pets? Can you feel comfortable with generic flea medications?

First, let’s look at what a generic medication is. When a specific pharmaceutical company develops and patents a new drug, they are allowed the exclusive rights to sell that drug for a period of time. When the patent expires, other companies can then market their own products that use that drug. Since the generic companies don’t have any research and development costs and very little advertising is needed, their costs are much lower and, therefore, their selling price is also lower.

Although generics utilize the same active ingredients as the original, they are not exactly the same product – and that is very important to know. Different inert ingredients that are generally recognized as safe may be included. In the case of flea medications, these inert ingredients are usually the carrier molecules, or what helps spread the medication across the pet’s body. The FDA requires that generic manufacturers prove their product exhibits bioequivalence to the original product.

In the case of topical parasiticides, many of these products are actually regulated by the EPA instead of the FDA. This means that a veterinarian’s prescription is not necessary to purchase the product, although, as mentioned above, most of the original pharmaceutical companies chose to sell their product “under veterinary supervision”. The generic manufacturers do not have that same belief and the new copycat flea products will be found on shelves of Wal-Mart, Target and other big box stores across the country.

So, if the product is essentially the same and at a lower cost, is it ok to buy these over the counter flea preventives?

Fleas, as well as other parasites, can cause a host of medical problems that go beyond simple itching. Serious diseases can worsen if the issues are not handled properly. In a general merchandise store, you will not find anyone with the expertise or training you’ll find at our hospital. Not to mention someone to call should your pet have an adverse reaction to any topical treatment.

Believe it or not, it might be more economical and more convenient to purchase the preventives through us at our hospital. Not only can you get all the products (flea preventive, heartworm preventive, etc) at one location, some of the ethical products sold can actually help with other parasite diseases.  So, a single product could be the answer for your pet instead of several that end up costing more.

We will also provide a single dose of the flea product instead of the six pack you find at the store. It’s another way we can help you save money!

It’s also important to note that the federal government has actually ordered multiple manufacturers of these generic flea products to remove some products from store shelves.

We understand that your pet is unique and may not tolerate certain products as well as others. We hope our medical advice has real value…especially since the wrong product used improperly actually have the potential to be fatal! We understand if there are other possible interactions between flea preventives and other medications your pet is taking.

Finally, our healthcare team  can not only show you how to properly use the products in question, but they will keep a complete record of what you have used in the past, taking the guesswork out and possible preventing future complications. And you already know we will keep track of your pet’s overall health and find medical problems early while they are still inexpensive to treat. We strive to be part of your pet’s health care team.

All of this valued information is not something you will get from a cashier at the grocery store or a display unit in a big box retailer.

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Online Pet Pharmacies – Saving Money or Risk to Your Pets?

With record numbers of families enjoying the benefits of pet ownership and online shopping, it should come as no surprise that the amount of money spent on our pets is huge.  Experts are forecasting that pet owners will spend more than $50 billion dollars annually.  A significant percentage of those expenses include veterinary care and prescription medications.  So, is it any wonder that buying your prescription medications online may also look like a good deal?

At first glance, online pet pharmacies would seem to be a great option.  The promise of lower prices and having the medication shipped to your door is a big selling point for busy, budget conscious people.  But, there are some pitfalls when relying on Internet based sources for your pet’s medication needs.

First, they all say you can “save a trip to the vet”.  Unfortunately, this is only partially true.  In order to prescribe and dispense medication to your pet, most states require that there is a valid veterinarian-client-pet relationship or VCPR.  This is usually defined as a veterinarian having examined your pet within the last 12 months.  If the VCPR does not exist, medication cannot be dispensed.

Some websites will offer to sell the drugs without a prescription. This is not only illegal but not in the best interest of your pet!  Websites that sell without needing prescriptions are most often based outside of North America, where pharmacy and drug laws may not be as strict.

The requirement for this professional relationship insures that you and your veterinarian have good, up to date facts about your pet’s health. Plus the medical records and history for your pet are all in one place.  The veterinary staff also knows your whole pet family and can help prevent problems when there are multiple pets present in the household.

Since pets are unique individuals, some may have unexpected reactions to certain drugs and some medications can even be deadly if given incorrectly.  Others may need a special formulation for ease of administration.  The online pharmacies will not know this information and this could be a problem if your pet is on several medications or has secondary conditions.

If a life-threatening emergency happens with a medication, your veterinarian is only a phone call away.  Some online pharmacies only allow contact through email and this will not help you if your pet needs assistance immediately!

Finally, despite many good businesses online, there will always be a few who are looking for a quick buck at your expense.  Avoid sites that offer dramatically lower prices than competing sites or your veterinarian.  Likewise, if you have ordered medication online, check the drug to make sure it looks similar to what you have given before.  If it looks different in any way, do not give it to your pet.

Illegal "Bootleg" product manufactured for Australia was purchased by a client from major online retailer.

The FDA is so concerned about this, it is now warning pet owners to be aware of shady online companies.  The National Board of Pharmacies has instituted the  e-Advertiser Approval Program to help you find properly licensed and compliant online pet pharmacies.  Only Eighteen companies nationwide have earned the right to display the e-Advertiser seal of approval, including Deerfield Veterinary Hospital.

Check with your veterinarian about online pharmacies.  Many veterinary hospitals now offer their very own store on their websites.   Often prices are competitive, and they are the same medications you purchase at the hospital.  Orders can ship directly from the hospital to your door, or you can choose to pick them up at the hospital without the hassle of waiting in line.

In addition, you will know who you are talking to in case of any problems or concerns.  Honest and open communication with your veterinarian about cost concerns will prevent misunderstandings about money and help you do what’s best for your pet.

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