New $4 generic programs and pet-inclusive pharmacy discounts are welcome relief for pet owners struggling to afford animal care.
Veterinarians cornered the pet medication market until about a decade ago when pet scripts began to migrate to online sellers like 1800-PetMeds. Now purveyors of pet food and supplies are shifting the focus to animals’ medical needs.
“It’s really opening into this brick and mortar realm and there is great potential for retailers to grab a nice share of that market,” David Lummis, senior pet market analyst for Packaged Facts, told SN. “There is a lot of money to be made.”
Whereas Wal-Mart, Target and Walgreens dispense prescription medications for pets that are also effective in humans, Kroger has pioneered the space by bringing hundreds of pet-specific meds to its pharmacies.
Pet owners once subject to veterinarian markups of 100% or more, can now limit the cost of animal care by purchasing generic pet meds for $4 for a 30-day supply or $10 for a 90-day supply, with a veterinarian’s prescription at Wal-Mart and Kroger.
“The whole industry has been pushing this notion of pets as family and treating pets more respectfully, like children, and now we’re seeing this humanization in pet meds,” Lummis said.
Drug chain Walgreens even covers cats and dogs under the $35-a-year family membership in its discount pharmacy program.
“Pet prescriptions have been so popular that we’ve added pets to our Prescription Savings Club,” said spokesman Robert Elfinger.
Enrollees receive reduced prices on pet prescriptions and access to over 400 generic medications, costing $12 for a 90-day supply.
Kroger also makes it easy for pet owners to save.
“To find out if there is a generic medication that might be right for your pet, just ask your veterinarian,” Kroger states in promotional materials.
Although seemingly innocuous, questions like these are not always well-received by veterinarians struggling to maintain profits derived from name-brand drugs dispensed in-house, noted Bob Fountain, president of Fountain Agricounsel.
The prescription drug portion of the business accounts for between 14% and 18% of veterinary revenue, noted Ashley Morgan, executive director of the American Veterinary Medical Association, Washington.
Also taxing profits are fewer veterinary visits, with more than half of clinics reporting a decline in 2010, according to the Bayer Veterinary Care Usage Study.
Veterinarians reserve the right to deny access to the generic-equivalent of a name brand and may do so to limit access to $4 programs in lower-priced channels, Fountain explained.
What’s more is that in certain states veterinarians can legally deny a patient’s request for a written prescription, requiring that they obtain the drug in-house or not at all. Some veterinarians even charge a fee to write prescriptions filled elsewhere.