Pharmacies now offering $4 generics for common pet medications
6.7 Billion Dollars. That’s the size of the pet medication market in 2011. The rapid advances in the treatment of pet maladies have resulted in significant improvements in the treatment of previously hopeless conditions and these treatments and the new drugs available for them have steep price tags. With that kind of money in the wind, large retailers have zeroed in on the sales potential. In my lightly populated area, I found Walmart, Target, Walgreen’s, CVS, Rite Aide, Meijer’s and Martin’s had entered the game at varying levels. Basically, if a chain store near you has a pharmacy, it is more than likely you will be able to buy at least some of your pets’ medications at a deep discount from your vet’s prices. There are also a large number of on-line sources for prescription meds. Here, as with the big box and chain store sources, you should do some on-line comparison shopping as the prices vary widely.
Virtually all of the chain pharmacies, grocery/pharmacies and big box stores will fill any veterinarian prescription with a human equivalent drug and dosage. If there is a generic available, the prescription is eligible for the pharmacy discount program, the most famous being the $4 for a 30 day supply-$10 for a 90 day supply programs at Walmart and Target. Both stores have impressive lists of drugs in these discount programs (Walmart close to 200) and Target has a list specific to dog medicines. Some chain pharmacies require you to join their membership drug program in order to get pet meds. Besides the cost of the membership (unless you already have a family membership), the discounts don’t appear to be quite as deep as the big box stores.
According to Consumer’s Reports, the mark-up on veterinarian prescribed and dispensed medications starts at 100%. A market research survey of 1,728 vets found some extreme examples of mark ups: prednisone-567%; tramadol-800%; amoxicillin-1,019%. Approximately 30% of veterinary practice income comes from prescribed medications and, considering the mark up, that accounts for a hefty portion of the bottom line. House Bill HR 1406, The Fairness to Pet Owners Act of 2011 pending in Congress, seeks to require vets, among other things, to write prescriptions for pet owners, whether they are asked for or not. Naturally, this has drawn a lot of lobbyist dollars on both sides of the argument. One potential outfall of the switch from vets to big box pharmacies is that vets will be forced to raise prices for their professional services. Increases in these prices have the potential to degrade the level of service that some pet owners can afford.
In summary, here are a few considerations before you move from your vet to a cheaper source of meds for your pets.
- A veterinarian intimately familiar with your pet over the years can provide information specifically tailored to your pet regarding the efficacy and potential side-effects of the prescribed medication. He will discuss them with you and answer any of your questions.
- For many of us, a relationship has developed between us and our vets as they care for our pets over the years. Special considerations provided to us at critical times in the lives of our beloved pets have created a bond of friendship, beyond the basics of pet patient healthcare. This relationship has the potential to be strained when we ask for prescriptions to be filled elsewhere. Speak openly to your vet about cost concerns or financial hardship and listen to any concerns they have about getting medications elsewhere.
- If you plan to buy prescriptions elsewhere, consider at least obtaining the “one off” or short term prescriptions from your vet. For expensive prescriptions for chronic conditions, your vet will likely be sympathetic to the situation and happily write a prescription. Inquire if he can do better on his price so you can afford to buy from him.
- Check the Websites of chain/big box pharmacies in your area for drug/dosage availability and the cost, compare to the cost from your vet and then weigh the cost difference against the intangibles of your relationship with your vet.
- Some on-line pet medication marketers are selling substandard drugs: out of date, questionable ingredients, questionable sources. Be careful when buying on-line and only shop with known sellers. Personally, I highly recommend Drs. Foster and Smith who are strongly competitive on price, service and selection.
Having 5 dogs, paying the cost for their optimum care can sometimes be challenging and so I do the mental gymnastics of weighing the high value I place on my relationship with our vets vs. the cost of their medications. At one point I had three collies on 100 mg. Rimadyl. That’s when I had to ask for a prescription and went to Drs. Foster and Smith for Novox, the generic of Rimadyl. In return, I buy all of my heartworm protection from my vet. It was a good compromise.
One drug comparison – DOXYCYCLINE TAB 100MG:
Kroger – $4 for 20
Walmart – $4 for 20
CVS – prices not found online, call for info
Target – $4 for 20
Walgreens – prices not found online, but they do offer $4 generics
Giant Eagle – $10 for 60, price for 20 not shown
Meijers – prices not found online, call for info
Rite Aid – $8.99 for 20