Obtaining a written prescription: Your veterinary surgeon will, on request, provide you with a written prescription in order for you to obtain veterinary medicines from alternative sources. Your veterinary surgeon will need to examine your horse before prescribing or dispensing veterinary medicines to your horse to ensure these are appropriate. This is a legal requirement and cannot be avoided simply because you are seeking out a specific medicine.
- There will usually be a charge for both the examination of your horse and for the written prescription
- If your horse has an ongoing condition, repeat prescriptions may be possible; however, your horse must be examined by your vet on a regular basis. Your veterinary surgeon will be able to inform you how frequently your horse will need to be examined and the costs associated with this
- A prescription may not be appropriate in the following situations
- If your animal is an in-patient or immediate treatment is necessary
- If the medicine needs to be imported from another country since this is only possible once your vet has obtained a special import certificate or a special treatment certificate from the Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD)
- If the medicine can only be administered by intravenous injection since this can only be done by a veterinary surgeon
- If the medicine is a 'special medicine' formulated under special conditions for the treatment of your horse
If your horse is insured and you intend to claim the costs of treatment you should check with your insurer before ordering your medicines from a source other than your veterinary surgeon. In some cases they will refuse to pay costs associated with such purchases.
Obtaining prescription medicines: It is important, for the health of your horse, that you obtain medicines from a reputable source to ensure that the medicines are genuine, effective and uncontaminated. If prices shown online are unbelievably cheap you should question the validity of the offer. If in doubt ask your veterinary surgeon if they believe the products or suppliers are genuine.
It is recommended that you obtain your medicines from a regulated supplier, this may include
- A high street pharmacy: High street pharmacies rarely carry stock of equine specific medicines, but may be able to supply human medicines. They are not permitted to substitute a human medicine for a prescription of a veterinary medicine or provide a different product from that stated on the prescription.
- A different veterinary practice: Some veterinary practices may be able to dispense medicines against a veterinary prescription.
- An online pharmacy: There are an increasing number of veterinary pharmacies, many of whom are properly regulated and reputable. To protect consumers, the VMD have established the Accredited Internet Retailer Scheme. Accredited retailers will display the VMD logo with their registration number. When you click on this logo you will be redirected to the VMD's website where you can check the details of the online seller. Further details can be found here
You should avoid unregulated suppliers since you cannot be sure of the safety of the product being supplied. You may become the victim of fraud and may be sold a product that is not what is claimed. Many oral medications look similar to each other and it is very easy for fraudsters to refill used packages, especially syringes, with fake compounds to make money. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. In particular avoid
- Overseas websites : It is illegal and unwise to import medicines since you and your horse lack the protection you would have when these are purchased in the UK
- Social Media : It is illegal to sell unused product direct to another horse owner. If they are willing to break one law, they are probably willing to break others
Will I save money buying online? Online resellers have fewer overheads and the benefit of buying in bulk, so can sometimes offer lower prices compared to your veterinary surgeon. However, veterinary businesses have developed a number of strategies to increase their buying power and offer lower prices to consumers. Do not assume that online is always cheaper, as the differences have reduced significantly. When prescription charges and postage is taken into account you may find that your veterinary surgeon is cheaper.
Prescription fraud: Prescription fraud is illegal and being increasingly identified and prosecuted. BEVA has produced tamper proof prescriptions for its members to reduce the ease with which prescriptions can be altered and make detection of this easier.