Hissing at a drug company
Sammie the World’s Greatest Cat is not happy.
Not even a little bit.
See, Sammie was looking over my shoulder as I read a story about what appears to be a miracle drug for cats.
This amazing concoction was patented by Gilead Sciences as GS-441524.
The reason you see nothing but that jumble of letters and numbers — just as it came out of the lab — is because Gilead refuses to market the product, even though it would save the lives of thousands and thousands of cats.
It turns out that GS-441524, which was developed in conjunction with the outstanding veterinary school at the University of California Davis, has a fantastic success rate in treatment for feline infectious peritonitis (FIP), which previously had been considered incurable and always fatal.
But if you happen to have a precious kitty who has contracted FIP, you’ll have to break the law to get your hands on any GS-441524.
Robin Kintz had two young cats who were afflicted with FIP and clearly were dying.
So, she took a wild shot.
“It was, ‘If you want to save your cat, send me thousands of dollars, and I’ll DHL you some unmarked vials,’” Kintz told The Atlantic magazine.
Desperate as she was (and with the funds to do it), Kintz transferred the thousands of dollars, received some unmarked vials from China, and then injected her dying cats with the clear liquid for months (the normal recommended course is 84 days).
Miraculously, the cats appeared to recover.
One of them lived just a year, but the other is bounding around even now, completely symptom-free.
That’s the nice part of this story.
The other side speaks to the type of thinking that infects giant pharmaceutical companies the way FIP can infect cats.
Did you recognize the name of Gilead Sciences?
It’s the same company that manufactures remdesivir, the antiviral drug that has been hyped for use in treatment of COVID-19 — even though remdesivir originally was developed to combat Ebola.
When the Ebola epidemic of 2014-16 in Africa reached only a handful of Americans, however, Gilead put remdesivir back on the shelf.
Why does that matter?
Well, it turns out remdesivir and GS-441524 are almost identical drugs.
The decision-makers at Gilead apparently decided that marketing GS-441524 to vets and individual pet owners MIGHT just confuse the issue with the Food and Drug Administration — just when we’re all frightened of COVID-19 and remdesivir could be a big seller.
The FDA has given remdesivir approval for emergency use, but Gilead wants the whole ball of wax, so …
The company is sitting on its hands with GS-441524 while thousands of cats die of FIP, and desperate cat folk send between $7,000 and $12,000 to obtain the drug from black marketeers in China.
Yes, I’d probably peddle my car (and a few other things) to take the chance on just such a transaction if Sammie TWGC needed GS-441524 — but why would anyone have to do such a thing?
Memo to Gilead …
Give the FDA some credit for knowing one drug from another, gang, even if they’re close cousins.
Let veterinarians dispense GS-441524 under whatever name you choose — for a fraction of the cost cat owners now break the law to pay.
Sammie’s right to be upset.
Sure, we want useful drugs for COVID-19, but that doesn’t mean a gazillion cats should die of a really awful disease just because some pharma giant is hiding a miracle drug in the closet.
“Breathe In. Breathe Out. Move On.”
— Jimmy Buffett
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