FDA approves ‘breakthrough’ drug for pain management

Almost every cat owner can remember the sad moment when they realized that their beloved four-legged companion might have entered the final stage of their life.

Maybe it’s the first time they’ve been unable to jump up on the bed, or maybe they’ve gradually stopped grooming and using the litter box.

Although these may just seem like signs of “aging”, they can also be caused by osteoarthritis, a degenerative joint disease.

Pet health experts say this chronic disease is extremely common among our feline friends, affecting approximately 45% of all cats and 90% of cats over the age of 12. But there has never been a proven treatment to manage their pain.

Until now.

On Thursday, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first drug to treat pain associated with arthritis in cats. It is also the first monoclonal antibody approved in the United States for use in any animal species.

“It’s absolutely groundbreaking,” said Dr. Duncan Lascelles, professor of translational pain research and surgery at the North Carolina State College of Veterinary Medicine. “I’ve been in pain research for 30 years and this is the most exciting development that’s happened.”

Lascelles said the “gamechanger” treatment could add several years to a cat’s life and pave the way for pain research and management for all other furry friends, including dogs.

“Finally, for the first time ever in the United States, there is a very effective treatment for managing joint pain in cats,” he said. “And so extend their lives, extend their happiness, and extend that beautiful relationship between cats and their owners.”

In cats with arthritis, the cartilage cushion surrounding their joints breaks down, so the bones rub against each other, causing pain and decreased joint movement, according to the FDA. Although it’s more common in older cats, Lascelles says our furry friends can be diagnosed with arthritis as young as 6 months to a year old.

The new drug – called Solensia – doesn’t treat that directly, but the FDA says it can help manage pain associated with arthritis to improve a cat’s quality of life.

In two clinical trials submitted to the agency, 77% of cat owners saw improvement in their cats when treated monthly, compared with 67% of cat owners in the placebo group.

“Being able to be mobile is so desperately important to quality of life,” Lascelles said. “Cats are described as needing 3D spaces. They must move on the ground, but they must also be able to move in height.

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Solensia is a cat-specific monoclonal antibody that is injected under the skin by a veterinarian once a month. The most common side effects seen in cats treated with the new drug included vomiting, diarrhea, pain at the injection site, scabs on the head and neck, dermatitis and itchy skin.

The traditional method of treating pain associated with arthritis is through the use of animal-specific nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, such as pet ibuprofen. But they’re intended for short-term use, said Dr. Nina Kieves, assistant professor of small animal orthopedic surgery at The Ohio State University College of Veterinary Medicine.

“And we really can’t give them these drugs if they have severe kidney disease,” she said. “Cats have a high prevalence of severe kidney failure as they age.”

NSAIDs must also be taken orally, which Kieves says can be difficult for cat owners to administer at home.

“Feline (arthritis) pain is generally undertreated due to a lack of effective and safe solutions for long-term use, as well as the difficulty for cat owners to administer oral medication,” said said Mike McFarland, Chief Medical Officer at Zoetis. , which manufactures the recently approved drug. “The approval of Solensia is a significant step forward.”

The drug will be available in the second half of 2022, according to a press release from the company. Pricing has not been finalized.

Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.

Coverage of patient health and safety at USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not provide editorial input.

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