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MN vets warn pet owners about counterfeit medications

The topic is front and center after Amazon removed an allegedly counterfeit version of the popular Heartgard heartworm medication.

MINNEAPOLIS — An Amazon spokesperson confirms to KARE 11 that the online retailer has removed allegedly counterfeit pet medication products from its website.

KARE 11 inquired about the products following a Facebook post by the Lakeville Family Pet Clinic, warning its customers about suspected counterfeit versions of Heartgard heartworm medication being sold on Amazon. 

Photos posted by the clinic, and also shown in the product's now-removed page on Amazon, showed similar packaging to the real Heartgard product, with a few key changes made to the logo, including replacing the letter "A" used on the real product with heart symbols on the alleged counterfeit packaging.

Several commenters also warned potential buyers on the alleged counterfeit product's Amazon page.

"That's probably the most common thing that we get asked from our customers and our clients," said Dr. Eric Ruhland, a veterinarian at St. Paul Pet Hospital. "It has the largest market share of any drug in veterinary medicine, preventative heartworm medications. And the reason they're counterfeited is, we're talking about millions and millions and millions of dollars that they can potentially make on it."

In its statement, an Amazon spokesperson said the products have been removed from the Amazon website after the KARE 11 inquiry.

"We investigate any claim of counterfeit thoroughly, including removing the item, permanently removing the bad actor, pursuing legal action or working with law enforcement as appropriate," the statement said.

Full statement from an Amazon spokesperson:

Safety is a top priority. Our customers expect that when they make a purchase through Amazon’s store—either directly from Amazon or from one of its millions of third-party sellers—they will receive authentic products. Amazon strictly prohibits the sale of counterfeit products and we invest heavily in both funds and company energy to ensure our policy is followed. We work with and empower brands through programs like Brand Registry, Transparency, and Project Zero to ensure only authentic products are sold in our stores. We investigate any claim of counterfeit thoroughly, including removing the item, permanently removing the bad actor, pursuing legal action or working with law enforcement as appropriate. The products in question have been removed.

In order to detect bad actors and potentially counterfeit products, we make significant investments in machine learning and automated systems. We employ dedicated teams of software engineers, applied scientists, program managers, and investigators to operate and continually refine our anti-counterfeiting programs. Amazon’s systems automatically and continuously scan numerous data points related to selling partners, products, brands, and offers to detect activity that may indicate a potentially counterfeit product and immediately block or remove it from our store. Over 99.9% of all Amazon page views by our customers landed on pages that did not receive a notice of potential counterfeit infringement.

Brand Registry

Any rights owner can enroll in Amazon Brand Registry to get access to a set of powerful tools that help them manage and protect their brand and intellectual property rights in our store. Brand Registry is a free service and more than 200,000 brands are already enrolled. These brands are able to report suspected infringement and ensure product information displayed on detail pages are accurate so customers can make confident, informed purchasing decisions on Amazon. Brands in Brand Registry on average are finding and reporting 99% fewer suspected infringements than before the launch of Brand Registry.


Transparency is an item-level tracing service where brands serialize each unit they manufacture with a unique code. Amazon then scans these codes and verifies the authenticity of the product before it reaches a customer. Customers can also scan the Transparency code via a mobile app to confirm authenticity and learn more about the product, such as usage instructions, ingredients, and expiration date. Over 6,000 brands, from Fortune 500 companies to startups, have enrolled their products in Transparency.

Project Zero

Project Zero is a new program that empowers brands to help us drive counterfeit to zero by combining Amazon’s machine learning technology with the unique knowledge brands have of their own intellectual property. Using the self-service counterfeit removal tool in Project Zero, brands can instantly remove counterfeit from our store and this information is fed into our automated protections so we can more effectively prevent counterfeit listings in the future.

Customers are always protected by our A-to-z Guarantee. If a product doesn’t arrive or isn’t as advertised, customers can contact our customer support for a full refund of their order.

Counterfeit is an age-old problem, but one that we will continue to fight and innovate on to protect customers, brands, and sellers.

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