Internet pharmacies affect practice to a degree. Many practices, he says, are trying to match prices on commodities like heartworm
medication and flea treatments. But it's more difficult to match drug prices, Maxwell adds. Typically, clients try to purchase
the longer-term medications online, and Maxwell doesn't blame them, comparing it to an elderly grandmother on a fixed-income
in need of medication. The AVMA's new policy would just make the online pharmacies "a little less able to undercut everybody's
prices," Maxwell says.
"From a veterinarian's perspective, it's a good thing," he says. "But from a consumer's perspective, it's probably a bad thing.
I can understand why people need to get it cheaper. Everyone needs to figure out where they are going to make money. I wouldn't
want to prevent people from getting a better deal."
Maxwell and DeJong agree that another issue that comes with Internet pharmacy sales is the need for adequate documentation,
which can be problematic to say the least. As a large practice, Adobe Animal Hospital receives about 20 requests a week from
Internet pharmacies, and they can be fairly aggressive, Maxwell says. If the requests aren't promptly returned, the pharmacy
contacts the client and that usually leads to angry phone calls to the veterinary clinic, he says.
"It's not a very cohesive relationship," according to Maxwell.
While some veterinarians refuse to sign the requests, or charge for the requests, that's not the case at Adobe. Sometimes
requests are missed, or simply not received.
"If fewer people used Internet pharmacies, that would definitely be alleviated," Maxwell says. "If (Internet sites) were forced
to charge a sales tax, there would be less of a financial reason for people to go to them. Any decrease in the number of prescriptions
we have to fax out would be a plus for us."
The issue of quality control is also difficult to get a handle on with online pharmacies. Veterinarians cannot guarantee the
prescription or dosage if it is not dispensed from the clinic, according to DeJong.
"For veterinarians, it's a change in the long-standing paradigm," Maxwell concludes. "It's competition, and some people don't
like it. It's change."