Protecting Pets from Dangerous Fake Medications

By Andre Caprio | Posted on November 7, 2023

Protecting Pets from Dangerous Fake Medications

The majority (70%) of American households have pets today, with a staggering 35% having more than one. Interestingly, over 23 million American households adopted pets during the pandemic, nearly 1 in 5. Caring for these loving animals can be pretty costly. Many of us experience sticker shock at our veterinarian when we hear the price of our pet’s medication, which prompts the consideration of alternative purchasing channels.

This incredible number of pets has spurred a remarkable pet prescription market. The market for pet medications surpassed  $12B in 2022 and is expected to continue to grow as all the pandemic pets age. However, this expanding market attracts malicious parties seeking to profit from pet owners. These bad actors are counterfeiting pet drugs and selling them to unsuspecting individuals. Consequently, there is a pressing need for anti-counterfeiting technologies to ensure the safety of pets and protect brands’ reputations.

Concerns About Going Online for Pet Prescriptions

The prohibitive cost of pet medication leads individuals to look at options other than their veterinarian’s office to purchase pet prescriptions. Like almost everything else, we can now order pet medications online. The simplicity of clicking a button and having our pet wellness products at our doorstep is extremely convenient. 

Regrettably, there is a downside to this growth. Fake pet medications have now infiltrated all areas of ecommerce, which can pose a dangerous threat to pets’ health. Knockoff products also threaten manufacturers’ reputations and undermine consumer confidence. While the scale of this illicit market is unknown, it is on a growing trajectory fueled by ecommerce.

Counterfeits Harmful to Pets

Counterfeit pet prescriptions can be harmful due to a myriad of reasons. The medicines can be expired, have minor variations, have been repackaged, have inappropriate medication doses (i.e., labeled for large 100 lb. dogs but dosed for only an 18 lb. dog), and often contain no active ingredients or employ lower-cost substitutes. Medications often have storage requirements, and illicit products may not have been stored according to the manufacturer’s specifications. All of which renders the drug ineffective or dangerous to a pet.

Pet Meds Most Often Counterfeited 

The most frequently purchased and high-priced medications, such as heartworm preventions, flea and tick preventions, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories, are also the most targeted by counterfeiters. The medications’ packages are designed to copy the genuine prescription, but there are often indicative signs that they are fake. Counterfeit products often have missing logos or ones with slight imperfections, spelling mistakes in the directions, grainy images, or may even bear printed text entirely unrelated to the actual medication.

Securing the Pet Medication Supply Chain

Laws have been passed in the human pharmaceutical supply chain to protect patient safety. All human medications must be serialized, so that they can be tracked and traced from manufacturer to dispenser. Serialization is mandated by the Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA), whose core objectives are to protect consumers from exposure to dangerous drugs, including counterfeits, diverted, stolen, and contaminated products, as well as facilitate how the industry manages and executes the drug recall process. Similar laws are being considered for the pet drug industry.

Serialization To Prevent Counterfeit Medication

A track and trace system is needed to verify that the information on the label is valid. Track and trace systems use unique product identifiers, such as the previously mentioned serial numbers, to track individual products throughout the supply chain, from production to end consumers. It helps manufacturers significantly reduce counterfeiting by ensuring products can be easily identified. Modern track and trace are cloud-based systems and provide 24/7/365 access for product verification. Intelligent labeling and track and trace systems can protect pets from dangerous counterfeit medications.

As more individuals pivot to online purchasing for their pet medications, more bad actors will attempt to sell them fake products. Consequently, companies need proactive approaches to safeguard the brands they have worked so hard to establish and protect the pets that their customers love.


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