Dog News

Treating Heartworm Disease – Another Immiticide Shortage

by Shawn Finch, DVM

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Once again, Merial, a producer of animal health products, has sent a letter to veterinarians announcing a melarsomine shortage of unknown duration.  I received my letter on August 5, 2011.  Melarsomine is the active ingredient in Immiticide, the only FDA approved medication for the treatment of canine heartworm disease.   As with the melarsomine shortage of 2009-2010, any requests for Immiticide must be made directly to Merial by the pet’s veterinarian.

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My super cute cousin Sam the Dog is on the melarsomine case!

Heartworm Disease Treatment is Different Than Heartworm Disease  Prevention:

Heartworm Disease Treatment

Immiticide is an injectable medication labelled for the treatment of heartworm disease.  It is produced exclusively by Merial.  Its active ingredient is melarsomine.

Heartworm Disease Prevention

Many different medications are used for the prevention of heartworm disease.  Most are oral or topical monthly medications and one is an injectable product given every six months.  All are available by prescription only.   None are currently scarce or  unavailable.

Should I worry?

If your dog is consistantly on a heartworm preventative medication, he or she is at a very low risk of contracting heartworm disease.  Those hardest hit, unfortunately, will be rescues and shelters, especiallly in heartworm endemic areas, and pet parents who have adopted heartworm-positive dogs, as well as pet parents whose dogs have missed doses of their heartworm preventative medication and become heartworm positive.  Immiticide is still available, but may be difficult to obtain.  The shortage is expected to last “weeks to months.”

The melarsomine shortage of 2009-2010 lasted about five months (December 2009 – April 2010).  A new supplier of melarsomine was found, and in the interim, Merial, the FDA and veterinarians worked together to provide heartworm treatment for dogs who needed it from the existing Immiticide supply and a conditionally approved melarsomine provider.

Will You Ever Stop Obsessing about Heartworm Disease?

No!  PLEASE keep your dogs (and cats and ferrets) on their heartworm preventative medication!  I would much rather have you read this post and move on to the next thing than hear how this issue has broken your heart.

I will also never stop singing the praises of boring.  Heartworm disease medication shortages are exciting.  Routine heartworm prevention is boring.  I love boring.

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Update!  This was posted by the American Heartworm Society on August 9, 2011:

Guidance for Heartworm Disease Management During the Adulticide Unavailability