New Pill Treats Diabetic Cats Without Daily Insulin Injections | News, Sports, Jobs

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When Mark Winternheimer’s 12-year-old tabby was diagnosed with diabetes last year, the treatment was daunting: twice-daily insulin shots, an implanted monitor and frequent trips to the vet.

Despite their misgivings, Winternheimer and his wife, Courtnee, of New Albany, Indiana, learned to give Oliver his shots.

“For us, they are part of the family,” Winternheimer said about Oliver and his two other cats, Ella and Theo. “You would not deny care to another family member if they were available.”

Now, a new daily pill promises to make it easier to treat feline diabetes in newly diagnosed pets without the injections.

“A pill is a big step forward from a needle”, said Dr. Audrey Cook, cat veterinarian at Texas A&M University.

One caveat: the pill called Bexacat cannot be used on cats like Oliver, who have previously received insulin.

The biggest benefit may be ease of use, experts say. While many cat owners successfully treat their cats with insulin twice a day, often for years, others struggle. Research shows that owners kill 1 in 10 cats with a new diagnosis of diabetes. Another 10% are euthanized within a year, in part because of treatment difficulties.

“Some people are afraid to give insulin injections. Some people don’t have the time to dedicate to taking care of their cats”, said Dr. Catharine Scott-Moncrieff, a veterinarian at Purdue University who consulted with Bexacat manufacturers about testing the product.

Made by Elanco Animal Health Inc., Bexacat was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in December and should be available in the US in the coming weeks. It is the first drug of its kind approved for animals; Similar drugs have been approved for people for about a decade.

Diabetes, whether in people or pets, is caused when too much glucose or sugar builds up in the bloodstream because the pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin, a hormone, or doesn’t use it properly. Bexacat lowers blood sugar by causing it to be excreted in the urine. Symptoms of feline diabetes include increased thirst and urination, increased appetite and weight loss.

About a quarter of American households include one or more cats, totaling more than 58 million felines. Between 1 in 100 and 1 in 500 cats in the US are diagnosed with diabetes, which is on the rise as obesity rates in the species approach 50%, said Dr. Bruce Kornreich, director of the Cornell Feline Health Center at Cornell University.

In studies involving more than 300 diabetic cats, Bexacat improved glucose control and lessened at least one symptom of diabetes in more than 80% of newly diagnosed healthy cats, company documents show. But several cats in the studies also died or had to be euthanized after taking the drug, leading to so-called black box warnings about possible side effects, including diabetic ketoacidosis, a life-threatening complication.

Because of these concerns, the drug cannot be used in cats previously treated with insulin and the animals must be carefully screened for liver, kidney and pancreatic disease and to ensure they are healthy, Scott-Moncrieff said.

“It will be life changing for some cats and some owners, but not for all cats,” said Scott-Moncrieff.

The drug’s list price is about $53 a month, according to Elanco. Most veterinarians will double or triple the cost of the drug, charging pet owners about $100 to $150 a month, Cook said.

Depending on the source, that could be higher than the costs of the insulin and the syringes or pens to administer it, she said. Cats on insulin need to be monitored frequently, but cats on Bexacat also need to be observed.

“I think the costs will be broadly similar, but there are a lot of variables here,” Cook said.

In Oliver’s case, the cat tolerated the injections — and a glucose monitor that had to be inserted under its skin, Winternheimer said. His owners were fine too, but were relieved when Oliver’s diabetes went into remission last fall.

No doubt the idea of ​​giving Oliver a pill would have been appealing, Winternheimer said. “I would definitely have preferred this if it had been available.”

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New Pill Treats Diabetic Cats Without Daily Insulin Injections | News, Sports, Jobs

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