Bayer Animal Health has said it is going to end kickbacks to veterinarians for flea and tick product referral, and will instead begin selling their Advantage and K-9 Advantix flea and tick prevention products directly to pet owners through both online and retail stores.
Of course, Advantage and K-9 Advantix have already been carried for a long time by such outlets such as Petco and Pet Med Express which have simply purchased entire skids of the medicine from veterinarians, who were only too happy to game the already crooked system while lining their own pockets in the process.
In a heated online discussion at the Veterinary Information Network (VIN), Seneca Falls, N.Y, veterinarian Dr. Carl Darby wrote:
"I guess [Bayer Animal Health has] decided that they do not need their free sales force any more. Someone at Bayer must have decided that they can make more money and sell more product through retailers....
"I hope that Bayer understands that losing their highly educated, motivated and dedicated free sales force may have long-term impacts on their business, and it may be difficult for them to regain the trust of the profession.”
And I hope Dr. Darby realizes it might be a while before dog owners trust the product advice of veterinarians again.
Whoops! No doubt he had not thought of that!
I have little doubt Bayer Animal Health simply got tired of veterinarians demanding bigger and bigger discounts (i.e. kickbacks) in return for recommending Advantage or K-9 Advantix over other flea and tick preventatives that are just as good.
But Bayer is taking a gamble.
You see, Novartis, Pfizer, and Summit all say they will continue to pay kickbacks to veterinarians in the form of deep discounts in exchange for product referral.
Merial, maker of Frontline, says it will release a statement "soon" about whether they will continue to pay kickbacks for veterinary referral of Frontline, their best-selling flea and tick preventive, which is already widely available over-the-counter thanks to veterinary product divergence (i.e. veterinarians selling the product out the back door to chain and local retail stores).
Why is there so much pharmaceutical payola going on?
As I recently explained to The Wall Street Journal, pharmaceutical company kickbacks for product referral in the human arena generally occur when drug companies are promoting products that are similar or identical to those already on the market.
"In that kind of marketplace, the business isn't about the drug. It's about the kickback, and it's about market expansion through illegal promotion."
Of course, to be clear, there's nothing illegal about kickbacks, payola, upcoding, or price-gouging in the veterinary marketplace.
In fact, in veterinary care, that's called "business as usual."
But that should be cold comfort to dog and cat owners who have gotten compromised veterinary advice for decades, even as they have been ripped off on the price of medicines.
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