BVA responds to Rip Off Britain discussion on costs of veterinary medicines

17 April 2019

On Monday 15 April, BBC Rip Off Britain explored the topic of veterinary medicines, comparing the costs of buying directly from a veterinary practice with those of buying from an independent pharmacy or online. The British Veterinary Association believes that buying veterinary medicines from your own vet provides additional benefits to both patients and clients. We have written the following letter to the show.

BVA President Simon Doherty said:

"We were glad to see Rip Off Britain throw a spotlight on the choices available to pet owners when it comes to buying prescription veterinary medicines, stress the importance of buying medicines online only through accredited sellers, and highlight the value of regular veterinary check-ups for pets. However, we were disappointed that the show did not present the full picture behind the difference in cost of veterinary medicines.

"There is no NHS for pets, and it is expensive to keep and dispense veterinary medicines under the strict guidelines that are set out in law. Vets must keep in stock a wide range of medicines, including those that are needed in an emergency, and very expensive drugs that are rarely used. All veterinary medicines have a shelf-life and once the expiry date is reached the medicines must be discarded, even if none of it has been used. The vet has already paid for those drugs and so needs a pricing structure for the medicines that covers the cost of wastage.

"Independent pharmacies and online suppliers are able to bulk-buy in a way that individual veterinary practices cannot and may carry lower overhead costs which can more easily be absorbed by the business. For veterinary practices, setting up a pharmacy, buying and maintaining the correct equipment, and training staff are all costs that must be met by the sale of the medicines.  

"However, it is important to note that it isn’t always cheaper to buy prescription medicines from an online source rather than a veterinary surgeon. If the medicines are very cheap this should ring alarm bells and pet owners should take extra care to ensure the website belongs to a reputable, accredited UK-based organisation.

"There are obvious added benefits to buying medicines from your vet, some of which were brought up in the show - such as the convenience of starting treatment straight away, especially for medicines required in an emergency. Vets and the vet nursing team will also spend time demonstrating how to administer medicines correctly to ensure maximum efficacy and can talk through any possible adverse reactions, how to spot them and what to do.

"The relationship of trust between a client and their vet is vital and while vet practices need to be financially viable you can trust that your vet will always consider the health of your pet to be paramount. We hope that pet owners will continue to discuss any questions or concerns they might have relating to their pets’ treatment and medicines with their vet."

BVA Media Office