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Kroger fills pet prescriptions

The retail chain now carries many animal-only medications in all of its pharmacies -- and dozens are included in the store's $4 generic drug program.

By Giselle Smith Jan 26, 2012 4:14PM

When their fat cat, Jeannie, needed to take daily doses of prednisone a few years ago, my friends Jill and Andrew spent hundreds of dollars filling her prescriptions at the vet's office. Now, if her health issues flare up again, they can get Jeannie's meds from the local Fred Meyer, part of the Kroger chain of stores.

After a successful pilot program last year, Kroger is now offering prescription medications for pets at all of its pharmacies nationwide, the Houston Chronicle reports. The chain operates more than 2,400 grocery-retail stores in 31 states.

Hundreds of pet medications are available at the pharmacies, and many are included in Kroger's generic drug program, through which typical dosages are available for $4 for a 30-day supply or $10 for a 90-day supply, according to the Kroger website.

Though many pharmacy chains fill pet prescriptions when the medications are those used by both humans and animals, Kroger is one of relatively few that sell pet-specific medications, according to the Chronicle. Also, Target offers its PetRX pet prescriptions program in 670 of its pharmacies in 24 states.

Tapping into a growing industry

Americans love their pets, and we spend a lot of money on them. According to a recent survey of pet owners by the American Pet Products Association, 62% of U.S. households -- 72.9 million homes -- have at least one pet. The APPA estimates 2011 spending on pets to top a record $50 billion.

Prescription pet meds were once mostly available only through veterinarians, with a markup of up to 100%, Bob Fountain of Fountain Agricounsel told the Chronicle. The entry of retailers such as Kroger into the pet meds business, as well as a growing online market, is a significant change in the industry.

Participating retail pharmacies and online services can provide most pet medications when given a prescription from a veterinarian. The catch, however, is that vets are not required to provide written prescriptions, even if clients ask for them -- although the American Veterinary Medical Association advises that they do so. Post continues below.

The proposed Fairness to Pet Owners Act, introduced in Congress last April, would require vets to write out prescriptions when customers ask for them. This would make it easier for pet owners to shop around and find the best price, but could cut into veterinary office profits.

Veterinarians, who depend on prescriptions for as much as one-fourth of their income, say that as drug sales decline, their fees will go up, which may make their services too expensive for some people, The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports.

Cheaper may not be better

The increased availability of pet meds via retailers and online services could be bad for Bowser in other ways.

Pharmacists accustomed to serving human patients won't have the expertise to closely supervise a pet's medication, and might not catch errors, inconsistencies or drug interactions that could negatively impact animals.

"One of the important things to think about are that the pharmacists may not show the pet owner how to apply the medication on their pet," Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, chief medical officer with Banfield Pet Hospitals, told Business Insider. "You'll get the drugs cheaper at drugstores, but what's often missed is the education the veterinarian provides."

Vets also question whether retailers and online providers are buying directly from the manufacturer or from third parties, where the quality could be questionable.

But Marla Fielder, assistant director of pharmacy in Kroger's Southwest division, told the Chronicle that its pet medications come directly from the manufacturer. She said:

We follow very strict procedures to make sure we keep the pedigree intact and give our customers high-quality products. We do use a secondary wholesaler on occasion, and their products are shipped directly from the manufacturer as well.

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Jan 27, 2012 12:38PM
I am a veterinarian that has been in practice for less than two years (graduated in 2010) and I have been trying to rely less and less on income from medications.  My predecessors derived a significant proportion of their income from medication sales which allowed them to reduce the prices on their services.  As veterinarians, even with income from drug sales, make barely enough to pay back their loans and support a family, this change in where owners get medications means we are going to need to look for other ways to make the money.  That unfortunately means other services are going to increase in price and the pet owner will, in the long run not come out ahead.  But the fact is that these pharmacies often sell the drugs for less than it costs us to buy them from our suppliers, so it is not possible for us to compete as some people have suggested, we can't be taking losses on selling drugs.  While pharmacists may think they know about veterinary medication (and maybe some of them do) the fact is that most don't.  Many of my clients have been given recommendations from pharmacists for inappropriate substitutions, some that are even life threatening.  Whenever I write a script for my patients I make sure to tell the owners to not listen to any advice given by a pharmacist without talking to me first.  I have no problem with pharmacies selling medications for pets, it is going to be the future of veterinary medicine, and veterinarians need to accept that.  But pet owners need to be very careful and make sure they don't make any changes to their pets medication suggested by a pharmacist without first consulting a veterinarian.
Jan 27, 2012 11:42AM
Vets do not "charge way to much for meds".  Medications are expensive, period.  Most people have insurance which covers their prescriptions so they aren't having to pay full price for their meds, they're paying a co-pay.  At the vet office, there is no insurance, no co-pay, so you have to pay full price.  The elderly do not go hungry so their "kids" can have their medication, the "kids" go without the medication.  Elderly are going hungry because THEIR prescriptions are $400+ a month.  And there is a concern with getting pet medicines at other places other than the vet hospital.  Does the pharmacist at Kroger's know what the side effects are for the meds for animals?  Just because a medicine affects humans one way, doesn't mean that's how it affects animals.  Does the Kroger pharmacist know that tylenol can kill a cat?  Does the Kroger pharmacist know the tricks of getting an animal to take it's meds?  Does the Kroger pharmacist know to tell an owner that is picking up cephalexin for her dog, to open the capsules and sprinkle it on wet food?  Probably not, and doesn't know why it should be done.  The reason is because the capsules taste nasty, and once a dog tastes it, they pick up the smell and no matter what you put the capsule in, it's a fight to get it down the dog's throat.  Open up the capsule, mix it in wet food or peanut butter, and the dog will lick the plate clean.  That's the kind of information that you will get when you get your meds from the vet.  It's the kind of information that I tell clients every day, as a vet tech.
Jan 27, 2012 12:07PM
Honestly, I really for sorry for many of you. Its a shame if you are being over charged or taken advantage of (it comes in many professions....and drug stores). Heck my meds are over $220.00 a month and my ins will only allow the less expensive ones. My Vet is very fair OV is $25, Rabies $10. and he still feeds his family. His practice is clean comfortable & the staff is very helpful. He once told us " I have to lay my head down at night and one day give acct for my actions". Its nice to know YES, there are honest and loving Vets out there that seeing the healing not $$$ signs. However, I also know that meds are not cheap, staff, building, equipment and the $100's of $1000's spent in operation not alone their education which is now close to $280,000 for 8 plus years. Its coming a time Vet will be hard to come by.....why spent $280,000 on education to be a Vet (starting salary $50-60,000) maybe? When $280,000 can make you a Heart or Orthro doc and make close to $1.5 m a year or more? My heart doc even drives  BMW Alpina $150,000 plus.He gets one every 2 years and gives his kids his old clunker.... I will take my Vet any day .
Jan 27, 2012 11:00AM
I've been getting my dog's prescription at Target for awhile now.
Jan 27, 2012 10:46AM
so what's the big deal ? been getting the dog's prescriptions at Wal-Mart for years !
Jan 27, 2012 11:41AM
This article is a little misleading.  For instance, the first paragraph where it mentions prednisone...prednisone is also prescribed to humans and they could have gotten it filled at a pharmacy (any pharmacy, not just Kroger) back then too for much cheaper.  I was a pharmacy tech for seven years at two different major chains (neither were Kroger) and we filled prescriptions for pets quite often.
Jan 27, 2012 11:35AM

This article could not be further from the truth about the ability of pharmacist to treat pets. Don't forget we too are pet owners. We do know the in and outs of all medications for pets and humans. To suggest that we would not know how to tell a pet owner how to apply an ointment or cream to the pet is ludicrous to say the least. We do this every day and for a lot more different types of medication. Once again someone trying to protect their turf in the medical field by slamming other health field professionals. My daughter is a vet surgical tech. Who does she call when the vets have problems about  medication information. You guessed it., Dadd the pharmacist. Who by the way is a clinical specialist in practice since 1968.

ciao ciao chipps

Jan 27, 2012 11:53AM
Also, to all the people saying that pharmacists can't provide the same level of expertise with animals that a vet can...while that may be true, if you have a prescription for your pet you must have seen the vet to get it, which means you still have access to the vet's expertise.  Just because the vet is not the one physically handing you the medication doesn't mean they can't advise you on how to give it to your pet.
Jan 27, 2012 11:43AM
We hope they have REAL Vet to give pet advise. Animals may use human meds....but there is a real difference in how they react to the drugs given. Not all meds are created the same way we know this in generic forms. Some animals should not rec generic forms due to the way they process the careful and ask your REAL Vet first. Keep in mind that aspirin KILLS cats and not all insulin's are the same. A few pharmacies were found guilty of giving advise to pet owners and their pets died or long suffered from kidney infractions from poor advise.. Our Vet is aware we rec our meds at a local chain retailer he write the scripts.......but he also advises the pharmacies.......Yes, Dr. Jeffrey Klausner, is right: . "You'll get the drugs cheaper at drugstores, but what's often missed is the education the veterinarian provides." that in its self is priceless at least to this large loving pet owner family:)
Jan 27, 2012 11:23AM
I am glad there are other places to get pet medications, now that I know about Krogers it's even better. My husband has the dog with him on his truck, long haul driver and its been hard to get enough of her pills at one time. They come home every four months.  I am glad some places are giving the vets a run for our money. Vets charge way too much for meds. Sometimes it forces the elderly to go hungry so their   "kids" can have their medication. Animals enrich our lives
Jan 27, 2012 1:20PM

Actually Chipps-R.Ph as a pharmacist you are NOT allowed to "treat animals" or prescribe medications for anyone. These are responsibilities that are reserved for Veterinarians, and it is their additional schooling and expertise that enables them to do this, which you do not have. And while many pharmacists do have knowledge pertaining to pharmacology and pharmacodynamics in animals as well as people the majority of a Pharmacist's education focuses on people, and not animals and thus they would not be the foremost authority regarding drug interactions in animals.

Jan 27, 2012 12:31PM
Kroger can't even get human prescriptions right!  Been there done that, almost died.  Would never trust their pharmacists with my pet! 
Jan 27, 2012 12:10PM
Giant Eagle chain has been filling my pets prescriptions for years.  My Vet writes out the prescription and I have no problem filling them.  In fact,  When my black lab was fighting heart problems, he was taking the same heart medicine that I take.  Much cheaper than having them filled at the vets office.
Jan 27, 2012 1:11PM
Costco has been filling pet prescriptions for years.
Jan 27, 2012 12:53PM
Walgreens also fills pets meds..Wonderful Idea ♥
Jan 27, 2012 12:42PM
wal-mart has filled my dog's prescriptions several times. Of course, i also have a 130lb king Lab, so he takes human adult sized doses anyway!  But it is much cheaper than filling at the vets office or with an online service!
Jan 27, 2012 1:39PM
vet82. Yes, this is true. Glad to see more Vets taking a stand which they have earn & paid dearly for. I see a huge mal-practicesuit in the forcast. Many people do not understand that Vet med's are not imported.....many human drugs are .The AVMA has strict guidelines which must be followed. Still there can be a happy middle ground if they would only allow the Vets to have a choice instead of making it for them and making the Vet buy ONLY their drugs. The drug companies cost which is 2x above avg......again, people don't know these things. Its still a AVMA issue which seems to have no voice or end . Its a shame when people do not know the REAL story or the whole truth about Vet med.
Jan 27, 2012 12:55PM
Price Chopper has been filling my dogs' prescriptions for about a year now and I have been very, very pleased with their services. The pharmacists make sure to not give us any advice and clearly state, they dont know dogs and dont want to make any recommendation regarding meds. They have also called the vet to question doses when our vet upp'd a dose my cocker spaniel had been on (at a lower dose) for awhile. Nothing but good thing to say about them. Yay PC!
Jan 27, 2012 11:46AM

Bansfield charges $30 for fluids/fluid subcutaenous kit, which actually retails for about $8. 

Jan 27, 2012 12:21PM
Thank you, Kroger! This is good to know in case my sweet Aussie needs meds. 
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