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Would a 'Frequent Buyers Scheme' work for repeat veterinary drug purchases?

Posted in Vet question? Vetanswers.. @ Nov 20th 2014 - By Judy Gillespie from a Member's question...

Could this be a way to fight the on-line veterinary pharmacies? 

A Vetanswers member sent me this question via Facebook - what do you think?

Some on-going heart medications are quite expensive and when a client is maintaining an animal on these meds for an extended period of time, it really does add up.....and we are very much aware of how much it is costing the client.

We have had some clients who have found the product cheaper at the new on-line pharmacies that have started up over the last 12-18 months (the USA is actually considering shutting these types of pharmacies down, interestingly). Unfortunately the on-line pharmacies sometimes offer the product cheaper than we can buy them or at least at our cost price!

After watching a program on the ABC just last week, where it was discovered a drug purchased on-line was actually NOT what the client ordered (the client ordered Viagra and the "medication" was tested and shown to not have any of the drug in it at all), the boss is very reluctant to agree to giving our clients prescriptions for on-line pharmacies.  We have and do give scripts for regular pharmacies but even that can be fraught with difficulties with pharmacists questioning dose rates because they are not familiar with animal dosing.

As mentioned in the blog post David vs Goliath: How a Veterinary Hospital Can Battle Big-Box Stores we’d also prefer the clients purchase from us as we’re then better able to monitor the patient when the client comes in for repeat scripts simply by asking the owner how everything is going.

So my question is: What do Vetanswers members think of offering a "frequent buyers" type scheme not unlike the human PBS where the client might get the 10th bottle free or something along those lines?

Do you have a question you'd like to ask the Vetanswers community?  Just send me an email or ask via Facebook and I'll share your question with our online community.



Chiara @ Nov 21st 2014 7:39am
Firstly, I'd love a link to that ABC investigation if anyone has it. As for a rewards program, I don't see how it would work if the pharmaceutical company isn't giving free goods. Seems like revenue may be lost. We try to be competitive where we can with online pharmacies, but for those clients that still wish to purchase from them (even after hearing about the fact that pharmaceutical companies don't guarantee the product from an online company and that the product may not be what it claims to be), we give the client a written prescription and tell them that they can send that in wherever they want, but we don't deal with online pharmacies directly. Between not working with the online pharmacies, client education, and price competitiveness, we do not have a high rate of clients using those pharmacies.
Judy @ Nov 21st 2014 8:57am
Hi Chiara, thanks for your comment & you've made a very good point. The last thing we want is to decrease revenue. I wonder if the drug companies might be interested in becoming involved with such a scheme? I'll also see what I can do to track down the name of the ABC show mentioned. Regards Judy
Kay Challis @ Nov 21st 2014 11:03am
I have been told by our vets in Tas, that it's actually illegal for our clients to purchase the drugs on-line. Although as above it isn't cost effective to give free goods, I have often thought about a 'Frequent buyers card' for consults etc. But just can't think how to work it. Would love ideas though. With dogs on heart meds we wont repeat drugs with out a consult/ re-exam every 6 months.
Judy @ Nov 21st 2014 11:41am
Thanks Kay - that's interesting that it might be illegal for the clients to purchase the drugs online. I wonder who could give us a legal opinion for the rest of the country?
Dale @ Nov 26th 2014 8:55pm
We have a disclaimer on our script for people that want to get compounded drugs from who knows where saying we take no responsibility for lack of efficacy or ill effects from the medication. I am thinking I will have it on all the scripts now. This issue is only going to increase. Does anyone know if prescription drugs should be sent by a secure method.. ie signed for on delivery? I feel this should be a requirement.
Kay Challis @ Nov 28th 2014 8:39am
I love the disclaimer on the scripts. Great Idea. I know for example with human scripts they come by regular mail. It would be a good idea if sending drugs by post was done by a secure method, as you never know whose hands they end up in. Judy I will find out for you today about the online drug sales. I have Angela working today who is on the Board of Tas AVA.
Gillian Shippen @ Nov 28th 2014 2:04pm
As far as it being illegal .... I suspect that is meant to mean that it is illegal without a script from the vet. The client is not able to just go on-line and purchase - A script is necessary. We had a phone call just this week from a on-line Phamacy in the USA asking for permission to send a client some ACP. I was a bit confused and asked if the animals was in the USA but no the phamacist confirmed the animal was in Australia and the owner was trying to purchase ACP (I suspect it was for grooming) - we denied the request as we had never dispensed ACP for the patient and had not seen it for at least 12months anyway. Interesting on peoples thoughts and I like the idea of the disclaimer
Darren @ Dec 1st 2014 3:08pm
The point regarding educating clients about the quality of medications from online sources or some compounding pharmacists is excellent. It is real and shows we care about the patient (not just the dollars). Revenue from medications is something we have little control over other than changing our prices. Pharmacy revenue is complex and often much less than we realise due to hidden costs of storage, waste, lack of efficient pricing systems & stock control etc. If we adopt similar legislation to the UK where vets are legally obliged to provide a prescription (you can charge for it) should the owner request we will lose a lot more. Clients in the UK can use their preferred vet for their clinical services and then purchase medications from another vet, online, pharmacy or compounder. Is this such a bad thing? In many ways I encourage owners to find reputable cheaper sources of medications especially for costly treatments. This allows me (us) to continue treating chronic conditions that may otherwise be left untreated or the pet euthanased. Clients are more likely to see value in a longer but more costly consultation than dispensing a cheaper medication. It is impossible to compete with large companies on pharmacy price so why try? Most of us still charge inappropriately for our time and expertise - things that are very difficult to replace by online versions of ourselves.
Michael Tweedie @ Dec 2nd 2014 9:48am
10% of your clients will be driven by price but instead of focusing on price consider assessing the value you offer your clients when they are purchasing drugs from you. Being an equine vet I am unsure as to the monitoring you do for heart patients but what about putting a 'free' nurse consult in with the repeat prescription so the dog gets its vitals checked etc while in and then if any issues identified in basic consult then this can be flagged with the owner and then dog seen by a vet. You can also look at it that currently you are not getting the revenue from these clients as they are going elsewhere so what is the harm in making a small profit from the sale for little work and match as much as you can price point. In today's market we as vets need to drive the value we offer the clients. As they are buying the repeat prescription they obviously care about their animal so adding the simple value of a nurse consult and showing they the value in this is often great as they will then feel a greater bond to your clinic as you are being seen to do the right thing by their animal. Creating a management chart similar to a vaccine card will also show they that there is an improvement in the animal or not over time which will encourage them to keep up the monitoring.
Judy @ Dec 3rd 2014 12:33pm
Thanks to both Darren and Michael. You've both made excellent points that both mention 'value'. And maybe that's the key - rather than trying to make the price cheaper, perhaps add value to what your clients currently pay for? Your thoughts?

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