- The Washington Times - Friday, January 5, 2007

The Food and Drug Administration yesterday approved the nation’s first drug to counter the growing problem of canine obesity.

The new prescription medication, known as Slentrol and manufactured by Pfizer Inc., reduces both appetite and fat absorption in chubby dogs to help them lose weight.

Dr. Georgette Wilson, a veterinarian with Pfizer Animal Health, told The Washington Times yesterday that 95 percent of dogs given Slentrol in pre-approval clinical studies “lost some weight.”

In one four-month study of 144 dogs, Dr. Wilson said, canines “lost an average of 11 percent of their body weight” after being given the drug. She described that level of weight reduction as “pretty phenomenal.”

Slentrol, known as dirlotapide, was developed to “meet an unmet need,” said George Fennell, a vice president at Pfizer Animal Health.

“Forty percent of all dogs, or up to 17 million nationally, are either overweight or obese,” Mr. Fennell said, adding: “So there has been a clear recognition by veterinarians in this country … that this is a serious medical problem and that we needed to find a medical solution. “Unfortunately, many dog owners don’t understand the health consequences associated with [their pet] being overweight.”

Overweight pets, like overweight humans, “are at a higher risk” of developing various potentially life-threatening health disorders, from “cardiovascular disease conditions to diabetes to joint problems,” said Dr. Stephen Sundlof, director of the FDA’s Center for Veterinary Medicine.

“[Slentrol] is a welcome addition to animal therapies because dog obesity appears to be increasing,” Dr. Sundlof said.

Pfizer officials say Slentrol will be on the market nationwide in the second quarter of this year, but they declined to be more precise. In the meantime, they said, the company will be educating veterinarians about the new product.

They describe Slentrol as both safe and effective, pointing out that no dogs died or incurred serious illness during clinical studies. Adverse reactions include vomiting, diarrhea and lethargy.

A dog needing to lose weight would be given a two-week dose of Slentrol. Afterward, a veterinarian would evaluate its progress at monthly intervals, adjusting the dosage that the animal receives, depending on how much weight it has lost.

Once a dog gets to a proper weight level, Pfizer recommends that the drug continue to be administered for three months, while the veterinarian and owner determine the amount of food and exercise the pet requires to maintain that weight. In some cases, a pet might need to remain on Slentrol for up to 10 or 11 months, Dr. Wilson said.

As for the price of the weight-loss medication, Mr. Fennell said, “a pet owner is likely to pay a dollar or two a day for therapy.”

Given the prevalence of human obesity in this country, Pfizer wants to make sure people don’t take Slentrol. The label will say it is not for human use and will advise that the drug be kept out of the reach of children.

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