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Battle for pet pharmacy

Discussion in 'Doberman Health Issues and Questions' started by Ddski5, Jun 12, 2019.

  1. Ddski5

    Ddski5 Hot Topics Subscriber $ Forum Donor $

    U.S. pet doctors steel themselves for online pharmacy challenge

    U.S. pet doctors steel themselves for online pharmacy challenge

    Published 2 hours ago
    June 12 (Reuters) - A David and Goliath battle is brewing in the business of selling prescription medicines for pets, pitching veterinarians against online giants moving into this lucrative corner of the growing market for animal supplies.

    Americans spent $72.56 billion last year on their pets, according to American Pet Products Association. Prescription drugs were expected to account for over $10 billion, according to an estimate from the Federal Trade Commission, and overall pet product sales are expected to keep growing by 4% a year.

    With deep discounts and online convenience, Walmart Inc , soon-to-be listed Chewy.com and Amazon.com Inc’s Wag brand have effectively conquered the market for pet food, care products and other supplies, but until now veterinary practices, which both prescribe and sell drugs, have been a major source of prescription medication.

    While Amazon so far has shown no interest in that market, Chewy’s and Walmart’s forays into the online pet pharmacy business threaten to change that, prompting veterinary clinics to seek help in defending their turf.

    Enter Covetrus Inc, Vet Source, which partners with Patterson Companies Inc, and others that offer tools to help vets manage their practices and give customers the convenience they have come to expect from online shopping.

    “We started to realize this is what our clients want,” said Stephanie Foster, practice manager at Kings Veterinary Hospital in Loveland, Ohio.

    “They want to be able to order things at 11 o’ clock at night. They’re used to the Amazon mentality.”

    Foster says she began using Covetrus to order drugs and supplies for the practice after it began losing sales of pet food and other products to online retailers. Now, her hospital has a website run by Covetrus under the practice’s name that effectively acts as its online pharmacy.

    With that comes software that helps the clinic manage its inventory and track prescriptions, so Foster knows when clients need a refill and for those Covetrus collects a service fee that is a percentage of sales.

    Foster said partnering with Covetrus has helped boost overall sales by half over the past three years because it gives clients online convenience, timely reminders and, despite the fees, competitive prices.

    “Covetrus now has more leverage with the manufacturers than I will ever have as a small business,” she said. “They’re able to get the manufacturers to agree to instant rebates and they can do flash sales on products and things that we just can’t compete with.”

    The company, formed by the combination of medical supply firm Henry Schein’s animal health unit and Vet’s First Choice and listed in February, represents some 100,000 veterinary practices globally. In the United States, 27,000 use some form of its services with over 8,000 - about a quarter of the market - signed up for prescription management, Covetrus says.


    PetSmart Inc-backed Chewy.com, whose sales soared from $26 million to $3.5 billion between 2012 and 2018, said in a filing ahead of its New York Stock Exchange debut this month it planned to expand its online pharmacy business launched last year.

    The company has yet to update on the pharmacy’s performance and it would not comment for this article, citing the silent period ahead of its stock exchange debut.

    Walmart joined the fray last month when it launched its online pet pharmacy WalmartPetRx.com and said it aimed to operate 100 in-store animal clinics by the end of the year.

    Analysts say, however, the prescription pet medicine business could prove more challenging than other pet products.

    Those who want to buy medication online still need a prescription from a vet and must either email or upload a copy or have the online retailer contact the practice first.

    That, analysts say, offers the practices a chance to sell the first batch on site and then direct customers to their own online service.

    Kristen Cook, a practice manager at the Belton Veterinary Clinic in Belton, Texas, says their doctors have no obligation to write a prescription for those shopping elsewhere and the clinic’s policy is to handle prescriptions internally.

    “It’s not something like I am handing them a piece of paper to take it wherever they want to take it,” Cook said.

    The stakes are high.

    Cook said that at least half of the clinic’s revenue comes from prescription drug sales.

    Nationally, pharmacy sales on average make up about a third of a practice’s revenue, according to Gary Glassman, partner at accounting and financial services firm Burzenski & Company, which serves veterinary practices across the country.

    The American Veterinary Medical Association says however, that 40 states have already adopted laws, regulations or guidelines that specifically or implicitly require veterinarians to provide a written prescription upon request in some circumstances. This means pet owners could fill those prescriptions with Chewy or other online providers, and the market is just too attractive to e-commerce players for the vets and their partners to get complacent, analysts say.

    According to a 2018 TD Ameritrade online survey of U.S. millennial pet owners, they were willing to spend up to $2,000 on average if their pet got sick, with dog owners prepared to spend more on their pets than what they expected to spend on their own healthcare.

    “People are treating their pets more like people,” William Blair analyst John Kreger said.

    “Historically ... you’d frankly euthanize the pet when they started to have some of these chronic conditions. That’s just not happening now.”
    • Informative Informative x 3
  2. Firestar Dobe

    Firestar Dobe $ Premium Subscriber $ Hot Topics Subscriber $ Forum Donor $

    I wonder if there has been or will be an issue with a Vet refusing treatment of an animal that has been given meds from an online source. Even if the Vet writes a script, they may have to deal with a client who ordered sub-par meds off the internet that have caused more harm than good. I'm not talking about vitamins, flea and tick, heartworm, etc., although even those could possibly do damage. I guess they would more than likely be willing to treat the dog since they will still be making money, but I also think they would let the owner know that they should have gotten the meds from them. Depending on the damage that may be done to the dog from these meds, how will the owner deal with possible costly extensive treatment from the Vet and what if the dog dies? I buy certain things online, but when it comes to meds I prefer to deal with my Vet. I know everyone seems to turn to online ordering of everything under the sun, but I think it could be risky when it comes to meds for our fur babies. I'm just not sure where I stand on this, I need more Pro's and Con's! I'm interested to know where others stand on this.
    • Agree Agree x 1
  3. GennyB

    GennyB Moderator Hot Topics Subscriber

    Wouldn't surprise me. I have heard of Vet's that won't give scripts to allow owners to buy online. They want to make the money and believe me they do make some serious change off meds.
    Our Cardiologist does gives scripts because heart meds are sooooo expensive. With those scripts she also gives a list of online pharmacies that have been proven safe.
    Vetmedin is a medication prescribed for dogs with DCM. It's becoming almost impossible to get, especially in the 10mg which is what dobies get. It has been on backorder for almost 2 years now. You can randomly find it but if you do, it's about double the price. I think it's up to $180 for 50 pills. The 5 mg dosage can be found but is even more expensive and you have to double the dose. For the inconvenience the manufacturer is offer $50 rebate. :whoop:
    I have found a compounding pharmacy that just happens to be a couple of miles from my house that makes us a month's worth for under $60. Screw greedy big pharma!
    • Like Like x 2
  4. Tropicalbri's

    Tropicalbri's $ Premium Subscriber $ Hot Topics Subscriber $ Forum Donor $

    I process all the online prescriptions for our hospital and we charge a $17.25 administration fee. Some clients get bent out of shape over the fee but I try to explain we have to pull their records and research through the last year of visits to see testing we have done and if the medication is a lifetime medication and when the last time testing was done that warrants the medication. I usually spend on average 45 minutes reviewing the health record of the pet and will issue approval only if the client is diligent about coming in for necessary testing while taking a drug as many have long term use side effects requiring bloodwork to see levels of kidneys and liver. I compile and condense the report for the vet to review for approval. We will only approve medications with refills for the time allotted until we need to run tests again to make sure the pet is WNL after being on the medications. Thyroid, heart, seizure etc. medications need to be evaluated after a 6mo period to determine if they are working correctly and not causing organ changes. We will stipulate this on script approval. Heartworm preventions 6mo supply is only given 1 refill so that we can do an annual heartworm test. Dogs can still get heart worms while being on preventions.
    Most online companies will reimburse the admin fee to the client. We do not charge the admin fee for prescription dog food and do not put a limit on refills of that.
    What people don’t realize is, alot goes into making sure the pet remains healthy and caution is used when we allow refills because it would be negligence on our part if we did not require a recheck on the pet. Some meds may need to be increased and some need to be decreased but seeing the pet and testing the pet is required to determine this.
    We have refused giving scripts when owners do not return for a recheck.
    • Like Like x 2
  5. Kaiser2016

    Kaiser2016 Active Member

    My vet does the same. When I learned about Walmart filling the prescriptions at a fraction of the vet’s cost, I tried to get such a prescription and the vet said they would charge a fee for that. So I ended up buying it from them.
  6. strykerdobe

    strykerdobe Hot Topics Subscriber

    I don't think they would charge you an administration fee if they just wrote you a prescription. The you can take the prescription to the store or send it to an online pharmacy?
  7. Kaiser2016

    Kaiser2016 Active Member

    That’s what I asked for and he said it would cost $18 to get that prescription. I even told him that Walmart would fill it cheaper so it makes economic sense for me, he still declined saying that they keep an inventory for a reason :rolleyes: And this even without checking any records because they were barely paying attention to anything. We now have a new vet, and his approach and follow up is much better. Haven’t had to get a prescription from him yet, but he’s a chiropractor as well, and despite knowing we have insurance coverage, he gave Kaiser one adjustment and said he didn’t think a follow up was necessary. So happy with this new guy. He is farther away, so that makes coordinating visits on a weekday a bit more challenging, but we should be better off with him in the long run.
    • Like Like x 1
  8. strykerdobe

    strykerdobe Hot Topics Subscriber

    Our Cardiologist or our regular vet doesn't charge anything for prescriptions.

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