Heartworm Treatment Drug Shortage

Hw brochure_0003I treat a LOT of dogs for heartworm disease.  The treatment is not complicated to perform, but managing the dog's six to ten weeks of convalescence can be quite complicated. That's why I took the trouble to produce my own brochure to help explain the process to clients.  There are lots of ready-made sources of information on the disease process, but it was a little harder to find an explanation of the nuts and bolts of what goes on inside the dog — why you might have complications, and how to recognize them, and what to do about them.

Immiticide package Since we treat a lot of dogs for heartworm disease, we use an awful lot of this medication.  Immiticide is the only drug available to treat dogs to kill the adult heartworms.  It is made by only one company, Merial. [There was an older drug called Caparsolate – Merial bought the patent and deep-sixed it.] There are five little vials in the box.  Once you mix them up, they are only good for 24 hours, so there's not a lot of medicine in each vial — you wouldn't want to waste it.  An average big dog will take 3 or 4 vials to treat.  A really big dog could take five.  It's not uncommon for me to go through fifteen bottles in a week.  Whenever my stock drops below fifteen bottles, I re-order.

That is, I try to re-order.  While I used to order everything by phone (I'm such a Luddite), I recently started ordering on-line from my main distributor.   I was really hacked off when Immiticide would not come up on my screen Wednesday evening, and I sent them a very sharp e-mail.  I had to order by phone the next day.  That is, I tried.  My distributor apologized, saying that there's no problem with the way I use their website — they just cannot sell the product right now.  There is a shortage, and I would have to order direct from the manufacturer. 

Immiticide letter Today I received a form letter recapitulating the information I got when I contacted Merial yesterday.  "As a result of unforeseen technical difficulties during a planned manufacturing site transfer…" [overseas, perhaps?  Maybe they are relocating production to Afghanistan?]  Anyhow, they are rationing the stock they have, as they don't expect to be back in production before APRIL.  If I have a dog I need to treat right now, and I'm totally out of medicine, and I beg really hard, and if I'm a really good boy for Christmas, they might sell me one box of five bottles.  BUT ONLY ONE BOX AT A TIME, and only if I can prove I really need it, and only once per week. 

So now I have to beg Merial before I can schedule a treatment.  I'd love to know what those actual "technical difficulties" are… and where they are relocating the production site.

6 thoughts on “Heartworm Treatment Drug Shortage

  1. Margaret says:

    This really stinks! The rescue group I am with gets 30-40% heartworm positive dogs (and we rescue 100 dogs a year), and having to wait many months before we can treat is going to be bad in so many ways.

  2. Sheila says:

    You have to beg and prove the need for this drug?? Why else would you be wanting to order it if not to treat a heartworm positive dog? I don’t know any clinics using it for other purposes, or wanting to buy an expensive drug just to spend money.
    AND, let’s talk about how responsible it is for them to endanger the supply of the only approved treatment for HW in this country when we are in the process of near-epidemic levels of HW. I know they know of this recent dramatic rise in cases, because both you and the local vets here in Jonesboro have said you have been talking to their reps. I suspect the need will outstrip a supply limit of one box a week.
    We recently took in a 4 year old collie with strong positive HW. He has other issues needing support before HW treatment should be attempted, but when he is ready, will he be able to get the drug? I will give them an earful if we can’t get the drug when he needs it.

  3. Doc says:

    Hello, Annabela,

    That’s what they tell me. They say that they think they have “enough” if people don’t stockpile, so only order what you need for the cases you have, maximum five bottles at a time.

    I went through twelve bottles in 3 days this week.

    Thanks for reading and writing.

  4. joan comeaux says:

    Yes… I too would like to know what the technical difficultes are.Sounds more like a broken TV set to me than a seriouslife threatening situation for our pets. I’ve only been waiting three months and now their explanation is unreasonable and not reassuring I will get the drug.WORRIED for my pet

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