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  News from the Maryland Veterinary Medical Association                                                    Winter 2011

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AVMA Guidelines on Internet Pharmacies

The following recommendations are offered as a guide to prescribing and client purchases:

  1. Drug therapy, when medically indicated, should be initiated by the attending veterinarian in the context of veterinarian-client-patient relationship. Clients that wish to purchase their prescription drugs from a pharmacy rather than the veterinarian should be advised to first obtain a prescription from their veterinarian before contacting a pharmacy. The veterinarian may choose to either issue the prescription in writing for the client, or contact the pharmacy electronically or by phone.

  2. Drugs may be dispensed or prescribed. Veterinarians should honor client requests to prescribe rather than dispense a drug (AVMA Principles of Veterinary Medical Ethics). The client has the option of filling a prescription at any pharmacy.

  3. One factor in evaluating the quality of an Internet pharmacy is accreditation by a recognized organization such as the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy (NABP). The NABP has developed the Vet-VIPPS program designed to ensure that Internet pharmacies that sell veterinary drugs are properly licensed and meet other program requirements. Further information is available at

  4. Veterinarians asked by pharmacies to approve prescriptions they have not initiated should do so only if the prescription is appropriate and a veterinarian-client-patient relationship exists.

  5. It is within the veterinarian’s (not the pharmacy’s) purview to determine the medical criteria whereby a drug is indicated.

  6. As with any prescription, a written record should be maintained.

  7. Prescribing veterinarians should ensure that information regarding the proper use of the prescribed drug and the risks associated with its use are communicated to the client, regardless of the drug source.

  8. If a client asks about obtaining drugs from a foreign country through an Internet source they should be aware that the importation and use of drugs not approved by the FDA is illegal.

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Important Links from this article

Choosing an Internet Pharmacy

Vet-VIPPS Accreditation

© 2011 Maryland Veterinary Medical Association

Annapolis, MD 21403 • (410) 931-3332 • fax (410) 931-2060 •