The year in veterinary news

Its hard to believe the first decade of the 21st century is drawing to a close. A lot happened in the world of veterinary news, from mergers to drug shortages to animal welfare and other legislation.

"To me the biggest news story of the year was the development of persistent supply shortages of critical veterinary medications -- especially propofol," said Eric Barchas, DVM, newshound and author of dogster.coms The Vet Blog. "Mergers, corporate shenanigans, and quality control issues combined in a persistent fashion to make practicing medicine much harder and more complicated than it should be."

This week, NEWStat takes a look back at some of the top stories of 2010. NEWStat will return in the New Year with a new installment of your favorite weekly newsletter on Jan. 5, 2011.

Drug shortages

2010 saw several drug shortages either begin or continue.

A shortage of propofol, which began in the fall of 2009, is still ongoing. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has propofol on its list of current drug shortages, but says some manufacturers are stepping up production to cover the shortage. In other propofol news, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) is proposing adding the anesthetic agent to schedule IV of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA). Other schedule IV drugs include diazapam (Valium) and alprazolam (Xanax).

Merial’s heartworm medicine Immiticide was in short supply at the beginning of this year. The U.S. manufacturer of Immiticide’s active ingredient melarsomine dihydrochloride stopped production, so Merial has had to obtain melarsomine from an alternative source. Due to regulatory issues, Immiticide cannot currently be sold wholesale, so veterinarians in need of the product must call Merial in order to obtain it.

Intervet/Schering Ploughs veterinary insulin product Vetsulin remains in limited supply. In November 2009, the FDA issued a product alert on Vetsulin when amounts of crystalline insulin in the formulation were found to be out of specification in some batches of the product. Intervet and the FDA announced in May that Vetsulin would be available for critical-need dogs and cats while the company tries to resolve the FDAs concerns.

According to a news story from the Veterinary Information Network, the chemotherapy drug doxorubicin hydrochloride is also in short supply as of this month.

Company news

Merck & Co. and sanofi-aventis moved a step closer to forming what will likely be the world’s largest veterinary drug company. The joint venture will be owned equally by Merck and sanofi-aventis, and will be a combination of animal drug companies Merial and Intervet/Schering-Plough. The companies appeared to be preparing to divest some of their animal health assets this fall, probably to comply with anti-trust regulations.

Veterinary supplier Professional Veterinary Products, Ltd., (PVP) filed for bankruptcy this summer. A PVP announcement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said that the company had "encountered significant and material financial challenges during recent times, primarily as a result of macroeconomic factors and a general downturn in the economy." According to SEC documents, the company suffered a net loss of $3.6 million during the quarter ending April 30. The company officially filed for Chapter 11 in August.

Animal welfare

Missouris new commercial breeding law, Proposition B, passed by a narrow margin on Election Day this year. The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) said the measure was too broad, and does little to improve animals’ lives, but rather just sets limits on the number of animals a breeder can keep. Whether you loved it or hated it, the bill focused a fair amount of media attention on the puppy mill issue.

The U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate scored a victory for animal welfare with the passage of the Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act of 2010. The law would make it a crime to record on video animals that are "intentionally crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or otherwise subjected to serious bodily injury."

The AVMA updated its Veterinarian’s Oath to include references to animal welfare and the prevention of suffering of animals.

A scathing report by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) revealed serious problems with the agency’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). The report found that federal inspectors responsible for enforcing the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) failed to penalize or fine some commercial breeders that kept dogs in horrendous conditions. The report has led to some reforms, including a monthly description of enforcement activities by APHIS inspectors.

Red Flags

After years of being pushed back, the enforcement deadline for the U.S. Federal Trade Commissions (FTC) Red Flags Rule will take effect at the end of the year. And thanks to a bill passed by Congress this month, veterinarians will not need to abide by the strict rules of the identity theft prevention program. (President Obama still has to sign the bill into law, which is expected to happen in the next week or so.)

AAHA in the news

The American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) made several important announcements this year as well.

The association released its Nutritional Assessment Guidelines for Dogs and Cats. AAHA found through its compliance study that only 7 percent of pets that could benefit from a therapeutic food were actually on such a regimen. The compliance discrepancy along with the many factors considered in assessing the nutritional needs of healthy dogs or cats, as well as pets with one or more medical conditions, led to the development the guidelines.

The AAHA Diabetes Management Guidelines for Dogs and Cats were also released in 2010. These guidelines provide current recommendations for the diagnosis, management and treatment of diabetes mellitus.

AAHA also released a set of open-source diagnostic terms for veterinary medicine. The terms provide a consistent way to index, store, retrieve and aggregate clinical data across specialties and sites of care.

Another announcement was that the association’s peer-reviewed medical journal, JAAHA, will go back into print next year.