Feline insulin discontinuation generates questions, answers

Discontinuing a popular feline insulin product can be a somewhat vexing and controversial proposition. But thousands of phone calls later, IDEXX Pharmaceuticals seems to have weathered the storm.

In April, IDEXX announced it would no longer manufacture PZI VET® (Protamine Zinc Insulin), which it has marketed for more than 10 years.

The company wrote an advisory to veterinarians saying, “as there are no FDA-approved facilities for harvesting bovine pancreatic tissue, we have determined after extensive study that further product of animal source insulin is not practical in a modern manufacturing environment.”

IDEXX established a toll-free hotline to answer questions and help veterinarians meet the needs of their diabetic patients.

“We made the announcement many, many, many months before we expect to run out of inventory,” says Randy Lynn, DVM, MS, DACVCP, IDEXX’s Director of Professional Services Group. “We wanted to give everybody plenty of advance warning so they can plan accordingly.

“Given the circumstances, the response has been very good,” Lynn explains. “Of the thousands of veterinarians who’ve called, we’ve only had one who swore at us and hung up the phone.”

He admits that veterinarians “are disappointed we’re not going to be able to supply the marketplace and we’re disappointed by that, as well. But they appreciate the advance warning. We want to assure them we’re committed to doing all we can to help them through the transition.”

Lynn, who has fielded hundreds of calls himself, suggests that for new patients, “PZI should not your first choice of drugs. There are other products to consider, like Vetsulin, that have been approved by the FDA.”

For existing patients that are easy to manage, Lynn encourages veterinarians to “talk with those clients and let them know what the situation is and work with them to come up with a plan for switching them to another product. If they just brought six vials of PZI, why switch them now?”

Finally, for selected patients that are difficult to regulate, “we’d recommend they keep those cats on PZI insulin for as long as they possibly can.”

Lynn says that IDEXX is currently working on a replacement product for treatment of diabetic cats.

“Unfortunately, I’m constrained by FDA rules about how much I can tell you,” he says. “I can tell you we’re working with the FDA and hope to bring that product to market as quickly as possible.”

However, veterinarians can get a “sneak preview” of the new drug next week in San Antonio, Texas, where IDEXX plans to present two research abstracts at the ACVIM Forum.

“It will be the first public disclosure of how our new product performed in our clinical trials,” Lynn says.

In the meantime, he encourages veterinarians who have questions to contact IDEXX’s toll-free number at (800) 374-8006 between the hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., EST, Monday through Friday.