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Veterinary medicines — a not-to-be-missed opportunity for pharmacy

By Andrew Evans

At a time when traditional over-the-counter business for community pharmacy has been in decline for many years, Andrew Evans takes a look at how veterinary medicines are fast becoming a professional range that may fill the gap

See also Veterinary pharmacy resources


Community pharmacies are in search of something to offer customers to fill the gap left by toiletries and, recently, medicine sales, which are drifting away to grocery retailers. Once a niche market, veterinary medicines are fast becoming a professional range that may fill that gap.

Veterinary medicines are not a unique range of new compounds. A pharmacist’s knowledge is equally as valid when it comes to veterinary medicines as it is in human medicines. Of course, the knowledge about their application within different animal species is something you will have to investigate.

However there are excellent resource materials and postgraduate courses that will help accomplish this competency.

Community pharmacies are visited by a huge number of pet owners every day. These are not new customers, but regular patients. Veterinary medicines can sell in many different places (eg, market towns, housing estates or city centres, literally anywhere).

What types of product should I sell?

You should start with the obvious animals. Dogs and cats are ubiquitous. Concentrate on the main prophylactic medicines for fleas and worms. These do not require diagnosis (which only a veterinary surgeon or pet owner is allowed to do) and represent some of the veterinary products with the largest market share.

The cat and dog wormer market is estimated to be worth £39m at retail prices, while the cat and dog flea market is estimated to be £113m. Other simple, common ailments should also be considered: oral and aural hygiene, and digestion and skin products can all complement your range. Once your cat and dog pet section becomes established, you will find that requests for products from other pet owners will more than likely follow.

Try to pick products and brands that the customer would associate with veterinary surgeries and not products that they would associate with the supermarket. This will help reinforce the professionalism with which you sell all types of medicine.

Pharmacy business

Selling veterinary medicines can help strengthen the message that a pharmacy is the place to go to buy medicines and obtain professional advice. The margins available on most veterinary medicines are comparable to or better than those on human over-the-counter medicines.

According to an independent survey on veterinary medicines prices published in September 2010 by The Best Organisation, pharmacy prices faired extremely well against those of competitors such as veterinary surgeons, whose prices often exceeded those in pharmacies by 100 per cent, so you can be profitable and competitive.

Pharmacies that have embraced veterinary medicines enthusiastically can achieve remarkable sales, with this category often being in their top five OTC departments, and often out-selling more traditional sections, such as hay fever.

Where to start?

The full line national pharmaceutical wholesalers may carry one or two lines, but none carries a range of veterinary medicines. However, the National Pharmacy Association carries a list of licensed wholesalers that specialise in the wholesale of veterinary medicines. Often, these wholesalers will also offer support and advice on setting up a veterinary section in a community pharmacy, as well as possibly training and promotional material.

Although there is no legal training requirement involved in selling veterinary medicines, there is the obvious obligation for pharmacists to carry out continuing professional development, encompassing areas covered by their practice.

A comprehensive selection of courses is available through the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s Veterinary Pharmacy Education Programme.

Certain providers of counter staff training also include some modules on veterinary medicines and the importance of your pharmacy assistants feeling confident when selling these cannot be overstated. Initial promotion of your veterinary medicines section should concentrate on informing your existing pharmacy customers that you now stock this product range.

Promotional information should be handed out to patients visiting your pharmacy. In fact, many of the major manufacturers have free-of-charge materials available. Your staff could ask regular customers whether they have a pet when engaging them during other services.

The combination of these activities, plus window displays and posters, can help raise awareness quickly, leading to successful sales in a new and exciting product category.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal URI: 11071304

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