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Excellent Vet Article from Globe and Mail re pet meds and vets

March 15th, 2008, 02:06 PM

Curing Kitty: What's it worth to you?
Many of the drugs vets prescribe are the same as those given to humans - but often at twice the price


From Friday's Globe and Mail

March 14, 2008 at 10:29 AM EDT

VANCOUVER Jennifer Ross is the kind of dutiful dog owner who once shelled out $15,000 for veterinary care in a single visit after her dog developed an abscess in his pancreas.

"Frankly, when I pay my bill at the vet, I have no idea what the charges relate to. I just think, 'Oh my God, this is expensive,' " says Ms. Ross, an Ottawa-area Web writer and strategist.

But pet owners like Ms. Ross are starting to question those costs. Vets set their own prices for pet medications, and some of them build in huge profit margins. Many of the drugs they prescribe are the same as those given to humans, and can be purchased at a pharmacy for a fraction of the vet cost. With some vets bucking the trend to charging higher prices, a war is brewing in Vancouver over low-cost veterinary medications.

"Ninety-nine per cent of Canadians don't know that [most of] the medicine is the same for the human and the animal," says Dr. Hakam Bhullar, a Vancouver vet.

One upscale veterinarian in Vancouver charges $54 for a pre-loaded syringe of erythropoietin, a drug used to treat anemia in pets and humans. The same syringe can be purchased for about $20 at Shoppers Drug Mart if bought in a pack of six.

Dr. Bhullar and at least 30 other Indo-Canadian vets, who call themselves B.C. Veterinarians for Justice, have filed lawsuits and are pursuing a human-rights complaint against the B.C. Veterinary Medical Association. They claim that as a group, they are being targeted for charging below-average prices for veterinary services and drugs. Among other claims, they say they are facing unfair disciplinary action by the BCVMA, and are being required to pass what they say is an unreasonable English-language proficiency test to practice in British


Medical association registrar Valerie Osborne said she could not comment on the lawsuits, and would only say, "the allegations are denied - we aren't targeting anybody."

Dr. Bhullar says he often charges the same as the pharmacy or less. He purchases insulin for about $4 and sells it to his clients for $8, making a $4 profit. He says there are no controls in place to stop him if he wanted to charge unwitting clients four times as much.

Ms. Osborne said a veterinarian is not allowed to charge "unconscionably high" prices. If they do, the BCVMA will hear a complaint. "It might not necessarily be proven, but we will respond to that case," she said.

"Veterinarians are free to charge what they need to survive and thrive," she added. "If a veterinarian can afford to provide their services for free, all the more power to them, if they can self-fund. We do not regulate prices."

Ms. Osborne said it's up to consumers to do their homework and shop around for lower drug prices.

Ms. Ross says she values her vet's ongoing care, but adds "there is a profit motive behind vets, and I think we forget that."

Mandy Butcher, founder of the 23-year-old Vancouver cat shelter Meow Aid, says pet owners shouldn't feel guilty for shopping around for cheaper options.

Ms. Butcher is currently housing 45 cats in need of adoption, some of whom are old and require daily medications. Ms. Butcher relies on a low-cost veterinarian for multiple packages of drugs such as antibiotics and insulin.

"People don't understand that you can phone one vet and get a price, and you can phone another and get a price that's a quarter of that. People don't seem to get that," Ms. Butcher says. "They're too trusting."

In Moncton, Dr. Paul Boutet, a spokesman and past president of the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association, says he routinely writes prescriptions for his clients and tells them to shop around for the best deal on medication. But he also defends veterinarians' medication pricing as a matter of staying in business.

"It's all a question of, 'How do I keep it so that my practice runs?' There is absolutely no government subsidy for veterinarians. ... So all the things you have to do have to generate revenue so you can pay the salaries of your staff, who most of the time are underpaid ... and to buy equipment that wears out all the time," Dr. Boutet says. "It has to come from somewhere. Nobody likes to charge for medication that animals need, unfortunately."

Ms. Ross wishes there were guidelines in place to provide a breakdown of costs so that consumers could have the power of choice.

"I wish there was a way I could understand the actual cost better," Ms. Ross says. "What is my vet's standard drug markup? Is it 300 per cent? Or is it 100 per cent? And how does that compare across the board, so I can have a better way of measuring that value?"

April 17th, 2008, 12:54 PM
I went to my vet today to refill my dog's interceptor prescription (which they charge $40 for 3 pills) today, but instead I just decided that I was going to ask for a prescription for the interceptor and would try to fill it online at, a licensed canadian pet pharmacy.
The vet actually refused to give me a prescription and said 'we dont do that here'. The reality is that I can buy a year's supply of interceptor online for the price they charge for 3 months worth. I should be able to shop where i want to.
If it were for something serious that my dog needed the medicine right away for i would definitly buy it from the vet.
However, these pills are just for preventive purposes, and it isnt an urgent situation.
What the vet said completely undermined my right to shop around for the best deal, creating a monopoly over medicine for them.
Needless to say, I am searching for a vet who is less money hungry. The situation is ridiculous, and im not even sure theyre allowed to do that.

April 17th, 2008, 02:06 PM
I am not liking this article. They need to enfsize alot that they are not telling us.

Just make sure what you can give your pet and what you can't. While yes, some meds can be given to pets that use humans take..but some can't.

Always call your vet before giving any meds to your pet.

Ms. Osborne said it's up to consumers to do their homework and shop around for lower drug prices.Mandy Butcher, founder of the 23-year-old Vancouver cat shelter Meow Aid, says pet owners shouldn't feel guilty for shopping around for cheaper options.

Yes, but you also have to consider that getting cheaper might not be the BEST for your pet. They are some stuff that should be brought at the vets and not in a retail store.


April 17th, 2008, 02:12 PM
deadfleaz, PetSuppliesNet, VetShopOnline
Try these you do not need a perscription I use deadfleaz much cheaper

April 18th, 2008, 04:19 PM
Yes, but you also have to consider that getting cheaper might not be the BEST for your pet. They are some stuff that should be brought at the vets and not in a retail store.

I realize this was in the article and I did not say it but I agree with it to some extent! There ARE some meds that I would not recommend even the generic BUT the fact is the no article is perfect and I did not suggest it was. It is excellent in reminding us though that we do not have to accept high fees from vets who charge money for meds. There was a time in this country that physicians also id the same ting and it was of course before Medicare!

If you can find the SAME med for a cheaper price, that is always a good thing unless you are one of those people who likes to say they paid more for something and thus it must be better. I do not think the article was referring to those items that can be purchased in a retail store. There are meds no one should buy retail and good pet owners know which ones those are. If they do not, they can educate themselves or ask their vet or read many of the articles here. Of course I would never buy some things for my cats off the shelves but if my cat needs penicillin , I can write her a script myself. (well not legally since she is a cat but I could write one for my bf and we'd give it to her.) Fortunately, I have a wonderful vet who when she did the cats' spays and Beau's neuter for example, she included the price of the prophylactic ampicillin in the cost and the cost was very reasonable. The follow up visit was also included in the fee. (The fee was $100)

So in that situation, I did not worry about scripts. Since I do pain research, I did give YY (who was the only kitty who needed it), a tiny dose of a pain killer which was approved by the vet who has asked me on occasion to help her with pain medication issues since I often work with small humans. (think infants here). (And yes, I do know that there is a whole host of difference between how a med affects a human and how it affects a cat!)

Beau is on a variety of heart meds and my vet writes the script and I pick them up at my pharmacy. Fortunately, one of the drug reps gave me a huge supply if samples when I told him ,one of my cats takes his cardiac meds. So I lucked out there. Turns out he is a cat person too. :thumbs up It is what many people do so I am shocked to hear a vet won't do that. I would report him/her to the Vet Board - because I am certain they have an ethics committee and it would indeed be intriguing to know the policy, My vet was president for awhile of the prov assn in this province and she says it is against the rules here but she was unsure about other jurisdictions. She thought most are similar though. Her - and their clinic and the fellow who manages it- policy is to often add the meds as part of the regular fee. Unless it is an expensive med in which case they write scripts. Sometimes, people will ask for the med there rather than having to go to a drug store.

Here in NS, I have noticed with my on patients that the best prices tend to be Costco but again, that depends on the medication (and I am referring to prescriptions which is what I thought the article was- I met the writer at a medical mtg they were covering once so I will ask). The prob with Costco is that they are only in large cities and thus available for a few - unless one makes regular trip there as some people who live say a couple hrs away do.

I did notice once, in buying Acetaminophen and codeine which is OTC but one must ask for it -that it was something like $3.99 at Costco and the cheapest elsewhere was $6.99. Interesting!