Thanks to COVID, veterinarians can now legally treat FIP in cats

Original article published on, 24.11.2020.

The nightmare is almost over. Until recently, there was a diagnosis infectious peritonitis in cats death sentence. Either a slow, persistent decline, or a decision to euthanize and end suffering. This happened to about 1% cats, mostly still kittens.

It was later found that certain antiviral drugs they can not only improve the symptoms, but can even lead to cure. But there was still a problem.

These antivirals were not licensed in Australia and therefore their import and use were illegal. The only cats that survived were therefore those whose owners and veterinarians were willing to take risks. My own veterinary association despite evidence of treatment effectiveness strongly warned against using them.

All the problems are over today.

Remdesivir: A new hope for the FIP

You must have heard of remdesivir. It was promptly approved by the TGA and the FDA due to promising results in the treatment of COVID-19. Importantly for remdesivire is that it is almost identical to black market drugs such as GS-441524.

It is now freely available with a valid prescription and meets all the strict criteria we expect from licensed drugs. Veterinarians still need to warn you that this is an off-label treatment, but it is the same as other cases where we use a human drug for treatment (which is often the case!).

Preliminary testing in Sydney has yielded excellent results. So now we have a cure for everyone. I estimate that fewer than 5% cats with FIP are currently undergoing treatment. Now all cat owners are offered a chance for treatment and most will seize it, although the cost problem still exists.

The cost of using remdesivir in cats

As you can imagine, it is an expensive medicine. I estimate that the 80-day treatment will cost around $ 4,800.

Is a however, this is very similar to the prices people currently pay for GS-441524 from the black market with unproven purity or efficiency. This time, if the cat is insured, it is likely that the treatment will even be covered by the insurance company.

Based on our previous observations, 84-day treatment should cure most affected cats. It is given as a subcutaneous injection once a day, but don't be put off. Everyone can do it and we will be happy to show you how.

Advice on the use of remdesivir for veterinarians

Australian veterinarians reading this article can contact me about a document that contains the recommended dosage, protocols based on the symptoms of the disease and how to obtain the drug itself. See the comments section below for some dosing notes. (translator's note - click on the link leading to the original article).

We are all committed to the work of Dr. Richard Malik DVSc PhD FACVSc FASM and the Feline Diseases Research Team at my alma mater The University Of Sydney.

We also thank the volunteer groups that helped many cats regain their health by taking risks. Their work is complete and we are grateful.

Andrew Spanner BVSc (Hons) MVetStud, a veterinarian in Adelaide, Australia. These blogs come from a series of regularly published e-mails and  Twitter.
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