Horse owners who buy medicines from unregulated websites risk buying counterfeit or unsafe goods, say vets.

The Veterinary Medicines Directorate (VMD) introduces a new inspection and logo scheme for UK online pharmacies in April 2012 (news, 6 January). But the scheme will not cover sites based elsewhere and UK online retailers feel the new scheme could disadvantage them.

Iain Booth of website VetUK said: “Our costs will go up and sales go overseas, where the VMD can’t legislate.”

The scheme would not prevent potentially dangerous counterfeit medicines coming in from abroad, he added.

The VMD is only aware of two reports of counterfeit veterinary medicines in recent years, but believes the new scheme would “reassure” online customers.

A spokesman said: “Counterfeiting is a serious issue and we need assistance from anyone using veterinary medicines to report suspect counterfeit products.

“Anyone buying from [non UK] sites risks buying a product that may not work or may be harmful.”

Ben Mayes, president elect of the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA), said horse owners need to understand the risks of buying equine drugs from anyone other than a vet.

The VMD inspections may include test purchases and physical inspection of premises.

The logo will provide a link to information including the name and qualification of the person running the site.