Pet owners in the Philippines, beware of unauthorized and fake Himalaya products, such as Nefrotec, Liv. 52, and Immunol. I used to buy them, too.
You can’t blame pet owners and rescuers like myself who want to save a little money when purchasing pet supplies. I have five rescue dogs and five rescue cats. At one point I had 17 animals. On top of the yearly vaccinations and monthly supplies, I spend on medication, especially now that my pets are seniors. I also donate to animal welfare groups, so you can imagine my expenses.
I purchased Nefrotec DS from my trusted vet (a two-hour drive from my home) a few years ago. It cost over ₱500 per bottle. I live in a faraway province where vet clinics with complete facilities are non-existent, so when the tablets ran out, I turned to Shopee and Lazada. When I saw several pet supply shops selling it for about half the price, my immediate reaction was, “Oh wow, the clinics really jack up the price. I better buy from these Shopee pet stores instead.” Today I regret that decision, but let’s continue with my backstory.
Like a diligent shopper, I checked the reviews. I started with my go-to Shopee pet supply store. They listed Nefrotec DS and Liv. 52 for half the price. The reviews were 95% 5-star ratings, with thousands of pet owners raving about how they saved so much money buying from Shopee instead of directly from the vet. I felt safe with the majority.
Same, But Different
When the bottle of Nefrotec arrived, I noticed the packaging looked different from the one I got from my vet. I brushed it off as new and updated packaging. This happens with pet food brands. After that, I would buy Nefrotec and Liv. 52 regularly from Shopee for almost three years.
Then one day this year I decided to look at the one-star ratings, just for the heck of it. One new review said, “This Nefrotec is fake! I showed it to my vet who said that it’s fake and different from the authorized version.” A photo of the “fake” vs. authentic one was attached.
My heart sank when I looked at the photos. My dogs have been using the purportedly “fake” one for three years, while the authentic version looked exactly like the one I stopped buying from my vet.
I browsed through dozens of online shops selling Himalaya Pet Wellness products—Nefrotec, Liv. 52, Immunol, and other common vet-prescribed supplements. Almost all the Shopee and Lazada shops sell the “fake” Nefrotec for ₱260-300 per bottle, while very few shops sell the authentic version for about ₱515. Not even Shopee Mall or LazMall, the supposedly authentic-guaranteed version of Shopee, is safe from fakes.
Is It Really Fake? Will My Dogs Be Okay?
Scared for the life of my ailing dogs, I stopped giving them the alleged fake version. Thank goodness none of them got sicker, or worse, died. I went into reporter mode by interviewing vets from different clinics in Manila. They wish to remain anonymous, but let me share a summary of what I learned from them:
Reputable vets get only from the authorized distributor of Himalaya, and the price range of Nefrotec DS is more or less ₱515 per bottle, while Liv. 52 Forte is about ₱455 per bottle. Vets are aware that there are fake or unauthorized versions rampantly sold online because concerned pet owners showed them the cheaper bottles they got from Shopee.
After prescribing Himalaya supplements like Nefrotec, Liv. 52, and Immunol, vets will offer the authorized version they have on stock, but many pet parents choose to buy elsewhere, hoping for a discounted buy.
“So are they fake and will they kill my dogs?” I asked the vets. They could not categorically call everything fake, because the only way they’ll know for sure is if they test the questionable tablets in a lab and check each ingredient.
I Tracked Down The Supplier
After more sleuthing, I found the only authorized supplier of Himalaya pet products in the Philippines, Animal Health Marketing & Services, Inc. on Facebook and sent them a private message. Their response time is quick, which is great for worried pet parents who need immediate answers. They told me the same things my vet told me, plus more insider info.
They are aware of unauthorized Himalaya products sold on Shopee, Lazada, and discount pet suppliers. They cannot outright call everything fake because there’s a mix of:
a.) illegal imports (a.k.a. counterfeits or outright fake goods) and
b.) parallel imports (non-counterfeit or genuine goods in different packaging from another country without the permission of the intellectual property owner, without paying taxes, and without FDA testing from the receiving country).
The only way they’ll know for sure is if they test the questionable products in a lab and verify each ingredient. The Philippine FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has tested and authorized only one version of Himalaya’s Nefrotec, Nefrotec DS, Liv. 52, Liv. 52 Forte, Immunol, and Canisep—the ones supplied by Animal Health Marketing & Services.
Why is it almost half the price on Shopee and Lazada? The unauthorized resellers get them from wholesalers in India and Nepal, where there’s a mix of illegal (fake) and parallel imports. The latter did not pay import taxes and do not have the FDA certificate.
“It has come to our notice that there are fake/counterfeit products circulating in the market,” The Himalaya Drug Company Pte Ltd. said in a press statement mailed to KateWasHere.com. “Products marketed by our authorized distributor in the Philippines—Animal Health Marketing and Services Inc. are bonafide. We do not take any responsibility with regard to the efficacy and safety of the products that are similar in nature and marketed by other parties in the Philippines.”
The most counterfeited Himalaya item is Immunol Liquid, while the cheap Nefrotec and Liv. 52 versions you’ll find online are mostly parallel imports mixed with some illegal imports (a.k.a. fake or counterfeit).
Himalaya For Animals vs. Himalaya For Humans
Aside from Himalaya Pet Wellness, you may have heard of Himalaya Herbals and Himalaya Personal Care, products for humans under different distributors. Another issue with unauthorized resellers in the Philippines is that they’re passing off human medication for animals and vice-versa.
For example, I found a Shopee store selling Himalaya Liv. 52 DS, which is for humans. Animals can use only Liv. 52 or Liv. 52 Forte. The reviews revealed that a lot of buyers get them for their dogs, thinking it’s the same as Liv. 52. The store placed it under the category of “dog and cat essentials” when it should only be for humans. They didn’t bother to correct or educate the buyers who wrote, “I bought this for my dog!”
What Now, Doggos?
When you buy the cheap version, you are putting your dogs and cats at risk. You’ll never know if it’s the parallel import or outright counterfeit. Both are dangerous anyway. The parallel import may be authentic in other countries, but without the FDA certificate, you won’t know for sure if they were shipped to the Philippines under sanitized conditions and safe temperatures. You’ll never know if they were tampered with.
I don’t know about you, but my dogs and cats are the loves of my life, and knowing what I know now about Himalaya’s fight against counterfeits, I’d rather pay a few hundred pesos more just to make sure they’re getting the real deal. Their livers and kidneys are at stake.
1. Check the label and packaging. Visit AHMS’s Facebook page to see photos of authentic Himalaya products versus inauthentic ones.
2. If it’s half the usual price, be very doubtful. The standard price of the real Nefrotec DS is ₱515+ per bottle, while Liv. 52 is ₱379+ per bottle and Liv. 52 Forte, ₱455+. Liv. 52 drops are ₱379 per bottle. Unauthorized versions are tagged at ₱250-300 per bottle. The authentic Immunol syrup is P549 per bottle, but the fake one goes from ₱200-300+.
4. Run everything through your vet. It’s okay if you don’t want to purchase all your supplies from the vet clinic, but make sure you show your vet what you bought from other stores, just to get their thumbs up.
5. Even if 98% of the reviews are 5 stars, you better peek at the 2% who gave it 1 star. That’s where I saw the “whistleblower” who said that it’s fake.
Pet parents, how do you think we can better spread the word about fake supplements and meds for pets?