Snow Leopard

Snow Leopard
Snow Leopard cub (7 mos old) - Cape May County Zoo

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Human-Animal Research Connection

While many people are aware that human medical research is done on animals, they may not realize that there is quite a bit of research in human medicine that benefits animals as well.
In fact, many of the drugs we use in animals are human medications. There are some companies that work exclusively on developing drugs FOR animals but the truth is that money drives all of this. The cost to get ONE drug approved in a dog is expensive (don't even ask about humans!),  so many times, they won't bother to get it "approved" in cats, goats, ferrets, etc. We have to use it and discuss it amongst ourselves and come up with acceptable doses and timing intervals. It's true. A drug company rarely pays for the necessary testing to get a drug approved for a cat, let alone a goat or a ferret. 

We, as veterinarians, use a lot of medications "off-label" and we are fortunate that we are able to do so. You probably don't even know the number of times your animal has benefited from this! 

In addition there are many drugs we veterinarians have used with great success in animals, that have been pulled from the human market due to problems (which we do not see in our animal patients.)  We are left to our wonderful compounding pharmacies to continue to supply these drugs to us. The drug companies are not going to keep it around for mere kitties (for example) because they will not make much money on them!

A prime example is a drug called Propulsid or Cisapride, a drug WE have used in veterinary patients, namely cats, with much success for issues associated with megacolon (and thus a constipation issue). In people, it was used for heartburn and they were having so many cardiac issues, they pulled this drug, not concerned that CATS benefited from it with NO cardiac effects. This is ONLY ONE example of many...

It works both ways though and the sooner we can communicate better among all the groups involved, the better off we will all be.

As a recent article out of Tufts School of Veterinary Medicine on how veterinary medicine affects the human medical device industry reports:
"... a recent design for a total elbow replacement device for dogs, the TATE elbow (named after the dog of inventor-veterinarian Dr. Randy Acker), introduced a “cartridge” concept that is being applied to development of joint prostheses for humans. A modified hip prosthesis that was developed for dogs who suffer from hip disease is being introduced in Europe for humans."
There has been for some time an effort to share knowledge among health care providers and scientists of all disciplines and it's called the One Health Initiative.  How they aim to achieve their mission statement makes sense to me:

One Health (formerly called One Medicine) is dedicated to improving the lives of all species—human and animal—through the integration of human medicine, veterinary medicine and environmental science. 

One Health shall be achieved through:

  • 1. Joint educational efforts between human medical, veterinary medical schools, and schools of public health and the environment;
  • 2. Joint communication efforts in journals, at conferences, and via allied health networks;
  • 3. Joint efforts in clinical care through the assessment, treatment and prevention of cross-species disease transmission;
  • 4. Joint cross-species disease surveillance and control efforts in public health;
  • 5. Joint efforts in better understanding of cross-species disease transmission through comparative medicine and environmental research;
  • 6. Joint efforts in the development and evaluation of new diagnostic methods, medicines and vaccines for the prevention and control of diseases across species and;
  • 7. Joint efforts to inform and educate political leaders and the public sector through accurate media publications

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