Merial Introduces New Product to Deal With Expiring Patent Burgeoning Tick Problem

 |  Jul 17th 2011  |   2 Contributions


I currently am attending the American Veterinary Medical Association's annual convention.

Veterinary conventions are singular things. They are populated by by three distinct groups of people, each of whom can be recognized from a distance. Veterinarians tend to be poorly dressed and to avoid eye contact with others out of fear that they might accidentally end up cornered by a drug company representative. Vet students and vet techs can be identified by the ginormous bags of schwag (doled out by drug reps) that they tote about. Drug reps actively seek eye contact and conversation; they also are the only people at the conference who could reasonably be considered by an independent observer to be well dressed or attractive. The drug reps are highly concentrated in the convention's exhibit hall. I avoid that snake pit if at all possible.

Everywhere at the convention are advertisements. No advertiser is more prominent than Merial; an ad (shown above) for their new flea and tick preventative, Certifect, features prominently on the back of the note book that came with my convention materials.

It is an open secret that Merial's patent on fipronil (one of the active ingredients in Frontline Plus) is expiring. Cheap generic versions of the product will soon (or may already have) hit the shelves. Certifect appears to be Merial's response to the market share threat posed by this matter.

When I looked at the ad above, three things jumped out at me. First and foremost was the notice on the lower left portion of the box: DO NOT USE ON CATS. I recommend Frontline Plus for tick control precisely because it is safe for cats. Generally speaking, if something isn't safe for cats, then I don't want to put it on my dog (let alone a cat).

The second item that caught my eye was that the ingredients of the product aren't listed on this or any other ad. The third thing, of course, was free lunch. I went to the lecture.

At the lecture, which was very well attended (free food is notoriously good for boosting lecture attendance), a point was made that tick populations are increasing. It was mentioned that ticks carry all sorts of nasty diseases, and that good tick preventatives are in dogs' best interests. No mention was made of any expiring patents.

Then, a veterinarian from Merial was pleased to introduce Certifect. And finally, I found out what was in the stuff. It contains fipronil and S-methoprene (already in Frontline Plus) as well as amitraz (a different sort of anti-creepy-crawly agent). Together, the two (fipronil and amitraz; S-methoprene is for fleas) have potentiated activity against ticks.

This is not the first time that amitraz has been used as part of a flea and tick preventative. It was an ingredient in ProMeris, which recently was pulled from the market due to concerns about immune system disease (although amitraz has not been implicated in these issues; it is an old-school product that has been in use for other purposes such as the treatment of puppy mange for quite some time -- prior to its withdrawal from the market, ProMeris showed great promise for the treatment of refractory puppy mange).

I doubt that Certifect will cause immune system disease. Perhaps it even will help with puppy mange (although if any studies showed it did the Merial rep surely would have mentioned them). And, relative to the nasty agents that are present in other DO NOT USE ON CATS products, amitraz is positively benign.

At the end of the lecture, one of my fellow conventioneers asked why Certifect cannot be used on cats. The answer she received was that the product has not been tested on or approved for use on cats.

This piqued my curiosity. It almost sounded like the stuff is safe for cats. I work at an emergency hospital. I know, as sure as death and taxes, that once Certifect hits the market people are going to start accidentally applying it to cats.

I usually don't ask questions during lectures, but I couldn't stop myself.

My query, "but is it safe for cats?" (shouted from the back of a large and crowded room) drew quite a bit of laughter. The vet from Merial refused to answer my question -- he simply reiterated that the product has not been approved for use on cats.

Fortunately, another rep swooped in to talk to me personally. For my fellow veterinarians, according to the Merial rep: amitraz is unlikely to cause toxicity unless orally ingested (and, as all vets know, cats can orally ingest anything that is put pretty much anywhere on their bodies; they are super limber). If orally ingested, it can cause signs of sedation similar to those caused by alpha-2 agonists such as dexmedetomidine. The sedation supposedly can be reversed with atipamezole.

For any person who accidentally has applied Certifect on his or her cat: call your vet immediately.

For the record, Certifect may actually have some potential. However, I don't live in an area where ticks are much of a problem, and my pal Buster hasn't had a tick for years. For now I'll stick with Frontline Plus (or perhaps a generic equivalent).

Please pardon the poor quality photo in this post; I'm out of town, with limited equipment.

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