I’m sure you’ve heard of it by now, as numerous blogs (from Big Fat Blog to Effect Measure to Corpus Callosum) have been buzzing with the news of Pfizer’s pet obesity drug Slentrol. As a very brief re-cap, this liquid drug is administered to overweight dogs and cats to induce a sense of ‘full-ness,’ and reduce their food intake. Why this couldn’t be accomplished by feeding them less rather than relying on them to voluntarily eat less (‘fat’ chance), I’m not sure. But, fact is, the drug is now here and its going to make Pfizer a boat-load of cash (as planned) despite it seeming to fill an non-existent market.
This high-profile and unusual drug comes at a carefully planned-out time for Pfizer. Yes, that would be coincidental with the up-coming expiration of Pfizer’s patent on the current best-selling drug in the world, Lipitor. Lipitor (Atorvastatin) is in the statin drug class, meant to regulate cholesterol, and in 2005 netted Pfizer a cool $12.2 billion. So when Pfizer loses its patent on Lipitor in a few years, it also loses an enormous chunk of its yearly profits. That won’t happen for a bit longer (in 2010), but they’ve already suffered the loss of several other major patents: Zithromax in 2005, Zoloft in 2006, and Norvasc in 2007. These, with Lipitor, are their cash cows. When the cash cow dies, replacements must be found. I’d bet that Pfizer has more than just this new drug up its sleeve, more will likely follow in the next couple of years. But, certain folks might be thinking that Pfizer’s interest in pet drugs might smack of desperation insofar that they don’t expect a blockbuster like Lipitor anytime soon.
And as to why I think Slentrol will make Pfizer a lot of money has to do with pet-owner guilt. Why do people overfeed their animals in the first place? Likely to make up for leaving them home all day, or away on vacation, or that missed walk in the park, time that couldn’t be spent. Pet food doesn’t come with FDA labels as to caloric content and other specifics, so its easy to far exceed what would be a healthy diet for a pet. Most vets will attest that this, as well as decreased exercise, has resulted in dogs and cats as fat as their American owners. So, a drug that treats poor BooBoo’s weight problem will be quite popular, especially since most pet owners rely on something looking wrong with their pets to know that something is wrong. Fido may not be able to tell you he has diabetes but that enormous gut is rather hard to miss.
One last piece of disturbing information, gleaned from a comment by a vet on Effect Measure’s blog. Likely, Pfizer meant this drug for humans, but copped to the animal indication instead due to the lower threshold for approval.
…would like to note, however, that many of these drugs, whilst marketed to pet owners, are developed initially for humans. Their registration for animal use is a side effect of their registration for human use, as animal trials are often done preceding human ones. We have a lot of useful drugs for animals that way. This one, perhaps not so useful.