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Animal-Only Insulin Still In Infancy

By Jessica Tremayne, Veterinary Practice News, June 2010 (full article available on the VPN website)

The lack of a steady, reliable insulin supply for the veterinary industry used to be an obstacle to regulating pet diabetes, experts say.

Today, owner acceptance and education are additional hurdles, but manufacturers are working to simplify the management of the disease for clients and veterinarians.

Instead of relying solely on human insulin makers, several drug companies are catering to the veterinary industry and seeking Food and Drug Administration approval of their products. They also are investing in research to discover how to make diabetes maintenance more successful.

Lauren Boyd, DVM, Dipl. ACVIM, of Michigan Veterinary Specialists in Grand Rapids, Mich., says she uses as many types of insulin as she can in order to understand them.

"It's a pain to switch insulin once the animal is regulated, but it is necessary sometimes when the product is discontinued or there's a problem with it," Dr. Boyd says.

She says she follows advancements in insulin offerings and in making diabetes more bearable for the pet and owner, but she has questions about one company's pending introduction of a transdermal insulin delivery system.

Novartis Animal Health signed an agreement March 31 with Phosphagenics Ltd., an Australian pharmaceutical company, to develop the system for pets, saying the device would be more user-friendly than the traditional needle-injection method.

"We're not at liberty to go into detail about the agreement or product but can say we're excited about the benefits it can bring to owners of diabetic pets," Novartis spokesman Mickey McDermott says. "We do not have a projected release date or additional information at this time."

Boyd says such a device could be beneficial for clients who don't see well, but she wonders about the delivery in long-haired pets and if clients accidentally absorb the insulin.

"I think anything that makes diabetes less difficult for owners will be a good thing," she says.

When pet owners must administer insulin every 12 hours, problems can occur that throw an animal's blood sugar into dangerous levels. Veterinarians say they work to educate owners and reduce the chance of disaster.

Issues With Insulin

Any vet who has practiced long enough has had a problem with insulin," says Kurt Peterson, DVM, a technical veterinarian with Boehringer Ingelheim Vetmedica Inc. "Every insulin has been ineffective in certain patients and it's largely because of the individual patient's need and the lack of a match-up to the right insulin."

Vetsulin Now Available for Qualified Critical Needs Patients: May 2010

Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health was expected to begin offering a limited supply of Vetsulin (porcine insulin zinc suspension) on May 24 through its Vetsulin Critical-Need Program.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the program after veterinarians continued asking for the product.

In November, the FDA questioned the stability of Vetsulin and recommended that diabetic dogs and cats receiving Vetsulin be switched to other insulin products.

"In response to the Vetsulin product alert ... Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health has been working with the FDA to address an issue identified with our Vetsulin product," Christopher Pappas Jr., DVM, the company's director of technical services, wrote in a letter to veterinarians. "Since that time, we have recommended that pets be transitioned to other insulin products as we anticipated a limitation on supply and eventual supply depletion. During the process of transitioning pets to other insulin products, we heard from a number of veterinarians and pet owners who expressed significant concerns that specific dogs and cats cannot be effectively managed on an insulin product other than Vetsulin.

"After working with the FDA on this situation, Intervet can now offer a limited supply of Vetsulin to specific, critical-need pets, when in the veterinarian's medical judgment these pets cannot be effectively managed on another insulin product. The availability of this supply will mean that truly critical-need patients can be maintained on Vetsulin."

The FDA says veterinarians with qualified patients should contact the company's technical services department at 800-224-5318. To enroll a patient, veterinarians must provide the rationale for why the patient cannot be effectively controlled using another insulin product. Click here for details about the program.

The FDA noted that because Vetsulin may have varying amounts of crystalline zinc insulin in the formulation, a delay in insulin action and an overall longer duration of insulin activity could occur.

Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health is working with the FDA to address the concerns.

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Last update: June 17, 2010