FIP Drama Continues


Share

A veterinary compounding pharmacy in New Jersey, Stokes Pharmacy, has announced it will make available an oral compounded (chewable) treatment for feline infectious peritonitis (FIP) starting in June.

In 2021, Bova Group, a veterinary pharmaceutical company based in the United Kingdom and Australia, began compounding the FIP drug GS-441524 for veterinarians. It now provides the medication in parts of Europe, Australia, Canada and other countries.

FIP is occurs when a typically otherwise benign feline coronavirus transforms inside the cat (typically a kitten) into an immune mediated disease which had until 2019 always been considered fatal.

With decades of funding from the non-profit Winn Feline Foundation – now called EveryCat Health Foundation – FIP was finally fully understood, and now professor emeritus at University of California Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, Dr. Niels Pedersen pitched the idea of an antiviral to treat the sick kitties.  He was funded for clinical trials which proved successful.

The initial drug used was Remdesivir (an anti-viral sitting on the shelf at the pharma company Gilead because it wasn’t all too effective at treating the Ebola virus in humans). Gilead pulled the plug on drug availability, so investigators pivoted to new but similar antiviral compound which also cured kittens sick with FIP.

In 2019 at a Symposium hosted by the Winn Feline Foundation and UC Davis, and attended by many who studied FIP over decades, the announcement was made that FIP is no longer fatal and now considered treatable. Veterinarians literally shed happy tears all around the world.

Of course, what no one knew at that time is at about a year later Remdesivir would be used to save human lives, treating people around the globe with the human coronavirus causing COVID-19. This wouldn’t have likely happened without the EveryCat Health Foundation, Dr. Pedersen and kitties getting FIP in the first place.

While this all began in the U.S., for inexplicable reasons the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Center for Veterinary Medicine has been extremely slow at approving a drug for FIP, and remains on hold. Meanwhile, drugs in other countries are available for cat parents to treat FIP effectively.

In the U.S. Cat parents have had to resort to expensive options available in the so-called black market, online from China. It turns out that for the most part, the Chinese drugs (varsions of GS-441524) are effective with survival rates at about 80 percent, according to a survey of owners, results of which were published in 2021.

However, while U.S. veterinarians can offer supportive care for kitties, they can’t order the drugs or administer them, at least not legally. Remdesivir could be used off-label by U.S. veterinarians, and that is legal but incredibly expensive and difficult to obtain.

So, this announcement from Stokes appears promising:
“Stokes Pharmacy has formed an exclusive partnership with the Bova group to offer a U.S.-made oral treatment for feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). This treatment is supported by Bova’s unique drug formula which has been utilized in clinical research studies across the globe.

Starting June 1st, Stokes will provide the only legal FIP drug formula, GS-441524 50 mg Tablets identical to the BOVA formula currently in use in the UK and Australia. This compounded preparation will be available by a veterinarian prescription only and price will depend on the quantity and dosage on the patient prescription.

Stay tuned for our FIP educational resource page at stokespharmacy.com coming soon!  And feel free to direct your veterinarian to stokespharmacy.com or to call us with any questions.”

This news is a step in the right direction, and the FDA, in a separate announcement, will look the other way because there remains no approved drug for FIP in the U.S. Sadly, there are drugs which could be approved.

The effort by Stokes and Bova is a step forward, however this option is like to be far from a “magic pill.”

Even if compounded to taste like tuna or salmon, some cats refuse because it is new and different. No matter, cats who have FIP have often lost their appetites and are so sick that appetite stimulants may not be effective. Also, while the formulation may work in other countries – there’s no known data as to how well it works compared to injections (which is what cat parents get online from China). While unlike China product, people will at least be more certain of what they’re getting.

The cost of the compounded med has not yet been announced, though this could cost more than the imported Chinese injections (which have come down some in price over the last year or two).

This entire road to help cats with FIP – which has been a cause of celebration – continues also be a frustrating one, a long and very winding one with enough political intrigue for a movie.