Biotech Drugs for Pets

August is National Pet Immunization month and while we’re all familiar with the standard vaccines, according to a recent article in The New York Times, pet medications may be entering a brave new world. Traditionally pet vaccines and medications have been developed by big pharmaceutical companies who first focus on developing products for livestock and then rework them for dogs and cats (or as the article refers to them, “edible animals as opposed to petable ones”). Secondarily big pharma repositions human drugs for use in the pet arena. According to the Times, new biotech companies are developing new biotech drugs for pets rather than reworking drugs developed for livestock or people.

Frankly, so far so good. But hold on to your leashes, one of the investors in these new companies is quoted as saying, “We’ve been drugging ourselves for a long time and more recently we’ve been drugging our kids. Why shouldn’t our pets have access to medicine?”   But is there a difference between the idea of providing access to medicine and the idea of “drugging our kids” (as many of us think of 4-legged friends)?

Some of the companies referenced, like Nexvet from Australia claim to be focusing on “therapeutic proteins” 100% customized to dogs and cats – which for those of us who don’t speak biotech translates to pain medicines – others are looking into cures for cancer and arthritis. Some of the companies have been successful in raising funds, but others have faced some difficulties when confronted by venture capitalists who don’t understand the human-pet bond.

But all of this begs the question – will pet parents spend the money on these new biotech drugs? Almost every day at San Francisco’s Pet Camp we are confronted by a pet parent complaining about the cost of veterinary care. Not a lot of pet parents have purchased pet insurance and there is not an Affordable Care Act for Pets (you wonder if the Republicans would try to block that too?) If pet parents won’t spend the money will there be sufficient market demand to fund the research & development necessary to bring these new drugs to market? If the market is there will big-pharma expand from edibles to petables?

What do you think? Is your pet on a new drugs from the world of biotech? If so were the medications expensive and were they worth it?

Thanks for reading!